This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Hey, Michael Sean!: Food baskets come with a Gilded Age moral lesson

Hey, Michael Sean!: Food baskets come with a Gilded Age moral lesson: MGB:_This budget is more than dead on arrival, FY19 appropriations have already been passed. Doing so largely mitigated the damage that could have been caused by the tax cut, but it is the spending that will cause jobs, not the tax cut. If the nation is insane enough to keep the GOP in office, there may be later spending cuts which will lead to a recession, but if we keep spending until Democrats can raise taxes again, there will actually be economic growth (mostly because the Democrats traded letting defense cuts pass to get domestic spending).

The tax system is ripe for reform, not just by raising rates on the rich but by removing the more from the tax roles, transferring this tax payment to consumption taxes (the income taxes of workers are essentially a hidden consumption tax), including a subtraction VAT which contains a credit of $1000 per child per month paid with wages, that living wage that Catholic social teaching not only favors, it mandates some form of distribution like that. Having such a credit can result in an end to SNAP, so no food boxes would be necessary. About 74% of abortions would not be necessary either.

People on SNAP do eat badly. This is because the amounts are under what is needed to buy food. Entitlements were cut so that when AFDC was turned to TANF, states would not simply switch to SNAP to take care of the job resistant (these are now either abandoned from the rolls or steered to disability). SNAP is now is even worse for people who need cash (everyone) to buy toilet paper or diapers, so they are forced to trade their cards for fifty cents on the dollar. Including a cash grant is much more essential than a box of food, which many SNAP recipients already get from local food pantries.

Sadly, much of that food is donated from super markets when it has reached the expiration debt (although some of this is simply sent to minority neighborhood stores for sale in food deserts). SNAP is not charity, it is justice, but if it were charity it would disgraceful in in paucity. Food pantry boxes often contain food that is or is about to spoil. Matthew 25 says that when we feed the hungry, we are feeding the Lord. Boxed excess food is often second rate. Is that what we would truly feed Jesus? Are we giving the sacrifice of Cain, which was not accepted and caused him to kill his brother who did give a good offering? Give people money instead and more heavily regulate the quality of food in poor neighborhoods.

Full disclosure. I spent much of last year using pantry food to supplement my disability income. If I am forced to stop drawing from my IRA because of value loss, I will be doing so again, so I know how bad the food can get, not through any malice but because everything donated is distributed (even if it should be composted). I cannot imagine the government doing better.

Conservatives believe we must punish the poor (not a Christian attitude) because if we suppor them (or rather if you suppor us), we will lose the incentive to go and invent the next version of the Internet, join the military and be shot at by the Taliban or simply be there to give you your morning coffee because you are too stupid to use an espresso machine or too lazy to clean it with each use. A servant economy depends on having poor people to be servants. Suffering is seen as a way to enforce conformity to society’s worthies (like our billionaire President).

Giving people a tax cut for each child will take people out of the labor force and allow them not fear poverty If they chose to work in a theater or library or sell hot dogs at the ball park. It may require higher prices to pay the taxes and any higher minimum wage (since no one should have to work for peanuts just to get a child tax credit, but that uncovers the problem with a sane economy that serves everyone, rich people are cheap, entitled and resentful of the poor. It is still hard for the rich to gain the kingdom of God, not (just) in Heaven, but in the earthly kingdom on earth (Thy kingdom come).

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Catholic Idols?

Before Mass on Sunday, I was making my way to my pew and came across an old Latina woman kneeling before a statue of Mary with a look of rapturous love on her face. If Mary herself had been walking by, she would have likely admonished the woman for giving worship to a graven image. Of course, what Mary knew came from the teachers of her time and was not far removed from the exile, where much of Judaism was codified, including the part about graven images. It may have originally come from the a meditating Moses on Mt. Horeb, however the reality of that encounter is lost to time, save for what could be an altar with twelve pillars that has been found at the foot of the mountain. Legend has it that Moses heard a voice, but it could have been his own thinking, which is good news for the woman at Mass who is merely violating a suggested moral dictum. There seems to be something in humans that wants a visible icon for worship and or veneration. The Monstrance is such an image. It meets a human need, but it delivers no grace until its contents are ingested. Still, if it gives people hope to get to the next world, it cannot be a bad thing, even if we contradict ourselves by allowing it.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square – February 2018 edition

It was disappointing, but not unexpected, that this bill went down to defeat.  I have no doubt it was meant to, because a successful abortion bill would have to be bipartisan and that would be the end of the game for the use of abortion as a way to get out Republican and Democratic voters.  I have already blogged about this issue in response to the coverage by National Catholic Reporter at  

First of all, with Pence presiding, they could evoke the Nuclear Option and passed with 50 votes. This was choreographed, and Dolan is playing his part. The last thing the USCCB wanted was a win because a win would have ended the issue and forced the bishops to call poverty an intrinsic evil (which it is). These procedures are incredibly rare, but if this bill is fixed correctly the issue could be ended with the right references to the Constitution. 
Second, this bill could have been made constitutional by tying it to the enforcement power of the 14th Amendment and by including standard exceptions for rape, incest, threat to life (already in the bill) and threat to health when the fetus is doomed to be stillborn (needs to be added). It would also have to consider all abortions after 20 weeks to infanticide, with penalties on the mother as well. Equal protection under law requires it and those who don’t understand that need to find a new issue. One final thing, an excepted abortion must be limited to induction or Cesearean or required fetal pain elimination. 
Third, a bill to settle the issue would need to increase the Child Tax Credit to $1000 per child per month, which is what the USDA says it costs to properly raise the child, although it could be varied if states paid part and only up to local cost. There few abortions in any trimester if the GOP acedes to this, of course, this is where they start talking about people taking individual responsibility. How is that pro-life if such a requirement causes three-quarters of all abortions?

Calling The Susan B. Anthony Fund a pro-life organization rather than a Republican front group, especially given its propensity to go after pro-life Democrats (especially after the Affordable Care Act passed), is outrageous.  Citing the Washington Times as anything but a Republican Rag is not something that should be done if you are speaking for the entire parish.

The women's rights issue is settled as long as you wish to regulate abortion as a medical procedure, which the bill did, rather than using Congressional power under the 14th Amendment to grant personhood to the unborn constitutionally (which is the only way that matters in Court and Congress) and which exposes women who procure abortions at that stage in pregnancy to a charge of infanticide.  Attempts to have it both ways are a great way to elect Republicans, but the deaths of millions of fetuses are as much on your hands for not seeking a real solution.

The Old Testament law on abortion includes mandating it if adultery is suspected (Num 6) and the penalties for loss of a fetus demonstrate that the unborn child was considered property, not a person, whose death could be punished with a cash payment.  Pre-Roe abortion law was in that class.  It was only because Roe considered such behavior to be what it was, an attempt to regulate female fertility, that abortion could be banned.

A deal is easily made in Congress.  The parameters seem to be 20 weeks on the right (throwing first trimester and early second trimester fetuses under the bus) and viability. Assisted viability without long term complications at 25 weeks is probably the end point of any negotiation, except neither side is willing to negotiate.  It would end the issue, cost too much campaign cash and too much volunteer time on both sides.

That Mrs. Clinton did not, as I recommended to her and to President Obama (who followed my advice through my friend Alice Germond), cite the campaign nature of the debate (as if any Democratic woman would vote against her) is what helped lose the election, although recent disclosures from Black Lives Matter show it is more that she did not do enough for that vote and that she was being punished for her husbands mandatory minimums probably had more to do with her loss than any debate points on Partial Birth Abortion or the countless letters from bishops in the Midwest on the issue. Catholics did not win it for Trump. BLM lost it for Clinton in Detroit, Philly, Milwaukee and Cleveland. Still, supporting Trump and his racism cries to Heaven for Vengence.

I would not call women's healthcare a constitutional right because providing it is done as a matter of positive law.  The only way it can be considered a right is that if health care is provided to an eligible women, that denying her reproductive health is an interference with a positive right being granted, which would be unconstitutional sexual discrimination, even if Republicans get away with it.  Federal abortion funding is only provided under the exclusions in the Hyde Amendment and I am sure that it is not what VOT (almost sounds like VOTE, how unfortunate) was referring to.

Regarding the list of "Facts:"

The right to life in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments is limited to governmental action.  For instance, if state welfare agencies decided that after the fifth child, Medicaid beneficiaries were required to have abortions, or if you executed a pregnant woman, that would be a violation of the right to life. China has mandatory abortion. We do not.  For the same reason, mandating birth control in a criminal proceeding, which has been done, or limiting the amount of TANF benefits you can get if you have additional children, which is the law as passed by Gingrich and signed by Clinton, is probably unconstitutional.  While the pro-life side did object to this provision, its objections have died out, which is shameful.  If you want to defend life, start there with the lives you don't particularly want to defend.

Funding for Planned Parenthood does not result in funding for abortion, unless of course you consider the unscientific view preventing a blastocyst from attaching is abortion.  It is not.  A blastocyst contains undifferentiated cells inside of the thoroblast, which is not a part of the child and is eventually delivered as the placenta.  The stem cells are not a person until they begin to organize, this being evidence some kind of organizing energy, force or soul.  Taking cells out a a thoroblast does not harm the eventual child.  After gastrulation, limbs are missing.

The sexuality of a human being is decided both by genetics and whether epigenetic events take place.  We are not sure how gender dysphoria occurs or why some children are born with intersexed genitalia, but research continues and that fact that these things are naturally occurring, and should be respected when these children decide how to live out their GOD-given sexuality is beyond question.  The Church should not interfere with the latter.

Until the thoroblast and stem cells are separated, the development of the zygote is known to be controlled by the maternal genes.  Gastrulation is the first time the male contributions have any say in the development of the child.  That is not theory, but scientific fact.

74% of abortions are financial. 5% are health related (although I suspect that quite a few therapeutic abortions would have occurred to those who hurriedly received an elective abortion. The difference are women who are not sociopaths, but who unthinkingly chose abortion for sociopathic reasons. Nothing the movement has ever said will stop them from such a course and the movement's inability to get behind a $1000 per month child tax credit shows that there are plenty of sociopaths on the Republican side as well.  There is no more sociopathic view than to be pro-life but to deny the need to help all families with children have a middle-class income just because they don't want to pay a bit more in taxes, and certainly no more than they can afford.

That the law contains restrictions on using women's health money is beyond question.  The assertion that all funds are fungible toward abortion is just plain wrong.  There are two OMB circulars relating to financial management by non-profits grantees.  If you think PPUSA offices are not meeting their requirements, even in the face of audit evidence that the really are, make a complaint to the sponsoring agency but quit lying about it in the public square.  The two circulars are A-110 and A-133.  Read them yourselves. Consult a real lawyer before for you repeat calumny about PPUSA.

The question of why women get abortions and why doctors provide them is fundamental  PBS Frontline did a special Emmy-winning episode called The Abortion Clinic where one of the doctors explained that they get into this grim task not because they like it but because they know that the alternatives for these women are bad care or self-induced abortion.  Anyone who is sure they know how evil these doctors are should watch the episode.

Has this newsletter made a difference? That depends.  If you wish to justify your side, then yes. But you are not speaking for all of the parish who can have faith-filled positions and disagree with you, as I have.  I suggest posting all of your pieces on either the parish site or on your own and allow comment, including a box to check designating one is a member.  Dialogue is necessary on this issue or it will be continually categorized as an election year screed.  When that is successfully done, Catholic votes tend to match votes in society at large, as they did in 2008.  It is only by letting us all speak and respond that we might approach not only the truth, but a common strategy to eliminate abortion by eliminating the need for it.

I am still surprised that the March on Washington did not receive its own issue.  I commented extensively at

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square – January 2018 edition

Veritas Splendor was St. John Paul’s attempt to rescue the conservative doctrines of Bl. Paul IX and Saint Pius X from irrelevance.  It is true that we don’t create truth, however every generation creates its understanding of truth in the language of the time.  Truth is certainly not preserved for all time just because a Roman Pontiff in history does not like how doctrine continues to develop. 

One area where both Popes Pius endeavored to stop the march of understanding was the Eden myth.  There are those who claim that Darwin’s Origin of the Species cannot be true because it requires that we change how we understand the Eden story, which was not taught to Abraham as family history or proclaimed by God to Moses but adapted from the Sumeric Myth (which had multiple gods, each defeating the god before in the seven days of creation). The Church’s current response is to say that the Eden story happened to our first homo sapiens parents, whomever they were.  This attempt is probably the lamest thing to come out of Rome since 1950. 

The Declaration of Independence was based on natural rights in the Deistic/Enlightenment sense, not a Romanist Natural Law Sense.  Any attempt to introduce the latter is pure fiction and an abominable lie.

The Eden story is not about disobedience, as St.  Augustine taught.  It was,  and is, a story of blame.  The serpent convinced Eve to blame God for not letting her know the sins of others (the knowledge of their evil that would make them like gods). Adam then blamed Eve for giving him the apple and Eve blamed the serpent.  The Crucifixion of our Lord is operative not because it satisfies an act of disobedience but because God feels the emptiness of human sin and blame and replaces it with empathy and forgiveness. Our salvation is realizing that God took on being us because we could not take on being Him.

Sadly, the popes have not had the courage to take on a new paradigm for either Eden or Calvary, but it must happen because it is a true discovery.

Human complementariness comes as part of nature. Homosexuality is also found there, so referring to creation myths in an evolutionary world is simply adding story to a search for truth.  The Male and Female passage is fine for heterosexual weddings and to argue for a much larger child tax credit, say one that matches what the USDA says is required to raise a child, or $1000 per month with pay.  Anyone who says that parents must take responsibility for paying to raise their children without support should be drummed out of the Pro-Life movement. Now that would require courage from the Voice of Truth.

Gay weddings could also continue the promise of being open to raising children.  Indeed, many gays and lesbians entering gay marital unions already have children from marriages that were a lie because they were based on giving the other a sexuality they did not have.  Gay couples and individuals often have the burden of raising children, or potentially do, as tragedy requires them to raise the children of family members or love has them seek adoption. (It is Calumny to assume they would be abuse parents, by the way). For lesbians, there is even a scientific way to become a mother (one or both partners), regardless of the fears of the CDF in Dignitas Personae that such actions are unnatural and even elitist (which they are not if everyone has the same health care).  To say that this is not true is an insult to step-parents and adoptive parents everywhere.  May St. Joseph forgive you.

The fashionable thing among Catholic reactionaries is to repeat what then-Cardinal Ratzinger said about homosexuality being against the natural order.  He said that because if homosexuals were differently ordered, there would be no justification for not celebrating gay weddings in the Catholic Church, and in that time there was a movement going that way full speed ahead.  Of course, his Natural Order is a sophistry created as a sin eater to absorb the guilt or even the harmful effects of sin because God, it His perfection, cannot be harmed by anything.  There is no natural order, there are individual acts which hurt or do not hurt individual people, alone or in groups. 

Ratzinger’s conception ignores two sets of facts, one, that homosexuals have unique biology, from their affectations to the size of the hypothalamus to the discovery that an epigenetic event may occur in the first trimester of pregnancy that produces homosexuality in men.  The other facts can be gathered by just asking gay people what made them gay or whether they always were? It will not take many conversations to discover that the latter is the case and that it is the height of pride and arrogance for us to tell them what they need to do for salvation when we will not believe them when they state this basic fact.  At a human level, the anti-gay movement is guilty of much bad and sinful behavior, but this instance is the worst of all.  Shame on you.

There are a great many teachings on sexual continence that apply as equally to gay and straight people. Appetites should be restrained. Fornication should be avoided, both not because they offend God, or even because they offend others, but because they harm the self. Individuals know whether pre-marital cohabitation and sex are common law trial marriage or promiscuity.  Indeed, they have a better handle on this than more conservative Catholics and an asexual clergy with its own set of attachment disorders (who should no longer be the last word in Catholic sexuality). 

If we are serious about helping gays with promiscuity, we will make the Sacrament of Matrimony publicly available to them as society has (and as some priests probably have or will in private).  Marriage is a joining of families and the opposition to gay Catholic Weddings deprives families of this opportunity to celebrate two people promising fidelity before God (the priest is but the witness), confident that they will function sexually with each other and raise and children sent their way. If that does not sound like a definition of sacramental marriage, consider retaking marriage preparation.

Worrying about the sexuality of others takes us back to the Eden myth and wanting to desire to know the evil done by others and judge it.  Don’t.  The relevant part of the Gospel is the procedure for Fraternal Correction.  It is invoked when someone harms YOU, not your sense of propriety, which is not based on love.

Abortion existed in great numbers before 1973.  Only economic means can stop it. Pray for conversion by pro-lifers that they may see that and abandon the worship of Mammon.

I doubt that only PPUSA sells research tissue.  I suspect most hospitals ask mothers to donate in the case of miscarriage as well.
Marylanders don’t select Democrats for abortion or gay marriage, but because we are the most aware voters on economic justice issues due to our educations in preparation for government service.  Using abortion as a wedge issue, especially Roe, is perpetuating the fraud that Roe can be overturned if we elect people like Donald Trump or George W. Bush president.  The reality is that both Bush appointees and one of his father’s voted against overturning Roe when they had a chance.

The race will be happy when we end the desire for the knowledge of Evil and let others live in peace.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Roe v. Wade, 45 years later: Debate continues amid surprises, stagnation
MGB:_The March for Life is one of the reasons for stagnation in the right to life movement. Of course, there is no stagnation in Republican fundraising, get out the vote activities or in its relationship with a slim majority of Catholic bishops. They have the movement exactly where they want it, serving their interests so that they can continue to fight for the rich.

The movement itself is scherotic because it is based on the notion that Roe should be overturned and the issue returned to the states. That will never happen. The federal judiciary will never give up the power to review state legislation on due process and equal protection grounds, nor should it. While many Catholic conservatives don’t like what that means for gay rights, gay marriage and birth control, the days of Catholic power in public morality are gladly over BECAUSE of the right to privacy. No more Catholic mob rule.

State regulation would be convenient. The movement could mouth a right to life while punishing abortion as bad medical practice, rather than infanticide. Roe forces the right to life movement to accept the fact that punishing abortion as infanticide means women go to jail. That it won’t go there because of the optics shows the extent the movement is a sham.

The movement likes to pat itself on the back for what it does for women in crisis pregnancies, but the test of the movement is what it does once the pregnancy is over and people are faced with crisis childhoods because of poverty. It is here that a significant portion of the conservative men in the movement talk about being accountable for your own children and not picking their pockets to help fund the children of the poor, although popes from Leo XIII to Pius XI (who was very clear about it) to Benedict XVI that the state should do exactly that. Again, as long as movement men take that position, the movement is a sham.

Trump is just another Republican. He at least told the truth, before they caught him, about women going to jail if abortion were banned on personhood grounds. If Hillary had attacked the movement and his hypocricy rather than trying to justify partial birth abortion, which is illegal, she might not have done so poorly with the Catholic vote. Reactionaries are fine with their leaders ebracing the big lie and in looking the other way at his foibles, some of which may land him in jail. The movement has its share of reactionaries who like their King Donald, his madness and all.

While Archbishop Taylor’s commitment to a seemless garment is admirable, as well as his witness against a bloodthirsty Attorney General, his actions and remarks smack of sour grapes, which are unbecoming in any bishop but seem all too common of late. On capital punishment itself, if the alternative is solitary confinement for the rest of your life then the state is the cause of death for the convicted (and only dangerous sociopaths should ever get such a sentence). It matters not to me whether the state kills their sociopaths slowly or quickly, although prisoners like to get it over with.

Shame on the alderman who tried to use health care for the poor to pander to their bases. Sour grapes, even in response to sour grapes, is poor governance. The bad old days of Catholic hospitals excluding gay spouses are over and CHA is a force for good, especially in dealing with Bishops who pander.

I don’t oppose the unborn. I would give their families money, would ban all but induction abortions after the first trimester and all abortion save life and health at 25 weeks by having Congress declare them to be persons. I oppose the Republican party because they won’t do these things, largely because it would end the issue and ruin their fundraising and GOTV with the movement. I also oppose the Bishops who join their little game.

As a Democrat Catholic, this seems a strong position. I need not indulge the pro-life movement in their attempt to use the unborn in an argument about federalism just because it makes regulating abortion easier. If they wish to talk about the unborn people, they need to face the equal protection implications. Pick a date where abortion is infanticide and there is a willingness to apply the appropriate penalties, knowing that any time before that the unborn are not legal people and state regulation of abortions is interfering with women’s health care. There are better ways to protect life, just as there are better ways to help alcoholics and addicts than criminalizing drugs. That the pro-life movement is unwilling to dialogue on such ways is the extent of its irrelevance. It is not my job to save them from themselves, even though I have tried.

The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin

This is second edition of this book, subtitled Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Donald Trump. As Antifa diagrams the war against fascism at the ground level, this book explains it from the top.  Part 1 is a Primer on Reaction. The private life of power is its desire for an ordered society, where the best and most creative are naturally at the top and there can be no talk of democracy, socialism or revolution (the book limits itself to the late eighteenth century and beyond). Reactionaries, conservatives and counter-revolutionaries are the same thing. Their existence comes because there has been change. When there is little revolution from the left, the right stagnates or sits on prior glories.

While the gay marriage debate is essentially over, it has become an organizing principle on the right. Indeed, there were no amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman until San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome decide (rather correctly in hindsight) that his constitutional oath required he perform such marriages, with cameras running.  Before then, the issue was ignored as Catholic and other hospitals quietly denied access to long time companions to their dying partners. Conservativism triumphed without raising a fuss (my example).

Reactionaries also have a thing for violent militarism. It is their ideal crucible to judge worth, although of late winning in capitalism is its surrogate. It is as if they all deeply admire the Guardians in Plato’s Republic (again, my example) and feel that they are the only ones worthy to rule.

Part Two looks at Europe’s Old Regime Reactionaries (pardon the redundancy). Hobbes was the first reactionary studied (as long as there has been despotism, hierarchy or individualists, there has always been reaction). He battled the Democratals and defended Charles I of England. This did not go so well, as my Uncle Charles lost his head. Anyone who has taken history or political science is familiar with the Leviathan and the harsh state of nature. What they don’t know (private to Michael Sean Winters, pay attention) was that the Democratals claimed (as I do) that divinely given freedom of will implied a divine right for the people to rule, not the king.

I suspect that because there was no one Democratal leader who is remembered, people ignore the theory, which is essence of the modern enlightenment and continues today, with a balance between the collective rights of democracy and the individual right to choose one’s path. Either way, it is a question of natural rights, not natural law. The one does not require the other, and certainly not in the forms that reactionaries wish to impose, whether they be political or ecclesiastic. I sometimes think that conservatives are afraid that God is Ogre to be placated rather than a savior whose only interest is our happiness, with justice for us, not from us. Indeed, obligations from God would be on the conservatives, not the revolutionaries (my illustration). Hobbes places moral superiority with those with wealth or power, who have the natural right to rule. I suspect he would prefer the Ogre, especially if it kept the peasants in line.

Next is Edmund Burke. (I reviewed a book called Burke’s Politics in my undergraduate Political Theory Class. Burke’s writings and speeches seemed more situational than comprehensive because he was a working parliamentarian). While he is best known for his service to Crown and Country and his opposition to the French Revolution, Robin draws on his economic writings to make his points on reaction and value. While others have deemphasized the Speenhamland arrangements as parliamentary, Robin still believes it to be a subject of Burke’s thoughts on scarcity. The Speenhamland magistrates had drawn up a minimum wage system during a food crisis that not only supported the workers but was sensitive to their family size and debts. Indeed, one could argue that the current tax system is less generous, because while it takes $1000 per month to feed, house and care for a single child according to USDA estimates (which does not include daycare), the new tax bill provides roughly twice that for the entire year (again, my example). Burke would have no such regulation of wages. He would fit into the Freedom Caucus rather nicely.

Theoretically, the market sets prices for goods sold and goods and services purchased, however both Adam Smith and Burke admit that it is the capitalists who set prices, thus rewarding risk and acknowledging wealth, power and the favor of law. Of course, the first capitalists, as often as not, were of aristocratic background. We can consider Trump a modern noble. He certainly has taken advantage of law, particularly bankruptcy law, as well as his inherited wealth.

Burke also wrote on the value of his own service in terms of a pension, comparing his accomplishments to those of noble lords who had title and did nothing aside from venting from the cheap seats (the House of Lords). He almost got to the point where providing value was what led to value, but he could not throw away a life of justifying royal and noble privilege, even to justify a higher pension. I see Reaction is essentially loyalty over truth. I don’t seem them ever espousing any kind of standard labor hour regime, where base pay is equalized, and other allowances include dividends for getting a degree or allowances for family size. Still, we need to give them something new to oppose.

Next, we have Nietzsche, the Marginalists and the Austrians. All of these acknowledge the superior role of capitalists and wealth over the economy, rather than working with models depending on free market assumptions. Progress comes from capitalists, not workers. Concentrated wealth creates and controls innovation. Invention does not come from the shop floor (and if you look at most modern compensation agreements, it hardly comes from the research department because the CEO gets the rewards rather than the inventors, who instead get a higher salary but not big and continuing bonus for racking up patents, at least not the engineers I know).

Part 3 brings us back to the U.S. and into the mind of Ayn Rand. My friend Carl Milsted did a good job of Objectivism on his Holistic Politics web page. Corey and Carl do come to the same conclusion about this second-rate philosopher who depended more on Nietzsche than Aristotle (as she claimed), brings with her all of his elitism. Of course, she does create the architype of succeeding through bullshitting, which the American CEO class has perfected in its drive toward high personal compensation, most especially one Donald J. Trump.

Next, we go to Goldwater and the development of right wing victimhood, which Nixon perfected. Beyond it all is the continuing justification for inequality. While it always comes in the guise of celebrating the capable, those that are capable are usually white. Anyone who doubts that there is such a thing as white privilege should read this chapter a few times. Privilege has become victimhood for most (although I would argue most were not that capable anyway).

The Neocons march in as if on que. Robin could have mentioned the Defense Guidance Cheney wrote for Bush or his ready-made plan for the war in Iraq, but he sticks as much to the pundit intelligentsia who were almost pining for war when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union vanished into the New Year, with Clinton cutting defense and talking peace. Then 9-11 happened and the chicken hawks thought that maybe the national will be rescued and America would recognize its imperial dreams. Bad Republican management of the war, which was not much better under Obama, nipped that pipe dream in the bud. For me, the irony became thick when people came back from war, they did run for office…as Democrats. They were part of the 2006 wave that made Nancy Pelosi Speaker and Harry Reid majority leader (again, my example). So much for war as a reactionary virtue.

Antonin Scalia, of recent memory, is next. He is called an affirmative action baby, probably because his colleagues put up with his nonsense, although there is now a version of Originalism that everyone can abide by, although they rule about the same way as before. Whether his Federalist Society friend, Neil Gorsuch, follows in his footsteps in reaction to privacy rights and the Fourteenth Amendment is still open, although I suspect the new Justice will follow Kennedy with time.

Lastly, we come to the Dealmaker-in-Chief, who seems to be way above his paygrade. Indeed, his shoot from the hip deal making this past weekend leaves the government shut down as his stiff convinces him to backtrack on what was agreed to. It seems he was also not much of a fan of due diligence in his dealings with the Russians, which may yet lead to his ouster. He wrote at one point about going after countries that launder money for our enemies. Irony? He claims he is not a fascist, but there are parallels with Hitler on both the Big Lie and, oddly enough, his obsession with decorating his buildings. For him, image is value. He thinks his name adds more than the workmanship of his Chinese labor force. Sadly, he may be right, which is why he won the election.

We are left with the madness of King Donald. I should not throw stones. Like Trump, I am a genius who does not sleep a lot (unless I take my meds). The difference is, I got my bipolar II diagnosis. What about Trump? You have to wonder what was in the medical file Trump’s Navy Flight Surgeon did not talk about or even share with his patient. Of course, there is no Deep State. Nothing stays hidden for long.

The author asks whether Trump will follow through on an agenda (of course, if his agenda is to undo the first black president, he is surely trying) or face a fresh call for revolution. At this writing I am finishing my client list of employee-owned firms whom I will be offering a much more cooperative, democratic and, indeed, socialistic way to operate. Is the current tired old reactionary script good enough to counter a call for workers to (democratically) control the means of consumption? including consuming management and government services (which the reactionaries may like)? We shall see. I expect Trump will soon have his hands full with Robert Mueller and his own demons and his reactionary party does not have the moral strength to rescue us from Trump’s battle with either, as they assume that his financial worth gives him moral worth. Pity that.

Monday, January 08, 2018

ANTIFA, The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray

Bray was asked to write this book a month after Black Bloc protestors shut down Milo Yiannopoulos when he tried to spew his poison at U. Cal. Berkley last February. He was also planning to name undocumented students on the campus in his presentation and the University felt powerless to stop him. The Black Bloc was not so powerless and the disruption led to the cancellation of the event. This followed the prior fall and summer where anti-fascist protestors disrupted Trump events on a regular basis.

Fascism is hard to define as it is not a particularly intellectual pursuit. It thrives on racism, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism, anti-gay and with Milo and Trump, anti-immigrant organizing. Haters like this are not the smartest tools in the shed, from the Neo-Nazi KKK member, the idiots who persist in the belief that Obama was not born in Hawai’i, including the Idiot in Chief whose presidency seems to be solely about undoing everything Obama did, ignoring the fact that Obama pulled us out of the fires of 2008. The ANTIFA does not listen to people, it silences them, both from self-defense and because once these idiots gain power, the unthinking masses seem to follow them as they did in Germany and as they do now with Trump.

I suspect the strongest clue that one is a fascist is that the ANTIFA takes notice and works to disrupt your hate speech, which is still banned in some countries. If you a police chief and Black Lives Matter is protesting your headquarters, there may just be a problem of racism among your officers. Fascism is based on fear and fearing that someone might be armed is not reason to shoot them until you see a weapon. Any officer who can’t hold their fire until then is too much of a coward to protect and serve the public.

I am ancestrally Roma on my father’s side (may mother’s father’s side is descended from Plymouth and Jamestown, like Obama Bush and not like Trump. To say that my people in Europe are friendly to ANTIFA is a profound statement, especially in Italy. When we perceive danger, we tend to respond. If that happens here (although I am sure our people in New York have probably bought Trump ten times over), we will respond here.

The book starts with the lead-up to World War II and the inadequacy of the resistance in stopping the fascists, who did not take power by revolution. They maneuvered their way into it and were largely accepted by the masses in the right ethnic majorities. It would take too much space to describe the resistance during the war, but after the war it came about sporadically when Fascists started to organize and Jewish veterans in England would not let them hold their demonstration. They kept standing in their way until their own infighting doomed that particular outbreak. That was the pattern through the early 2000s and that is the pattern now. It is what works, with new tools such as Doxing (putting names to faces on the Internet and sending their employer the pictures) as well as traditional physical resistance, from blocking entrances to trains to marching routes.

There are a whole lot of tools in the shed and a serious discussion on why the are used. Anyone interested in helping or who things ANTIFA goes too far should buy the book. Bray seems to know everyone, from England to Greece to Syria (although his knowledge may be from secondary sources, which you can find on this blog).

The book also relates to the socialist nature of ANTIFA, although all anti-fascists are not socialists. Black Lives Matter is not a socialist organization but it is anti-fascist. Fascists do seem to be tools of capitalism, using racism, et al to keep the order need to operate the economics of worker, consumer and citizen domination. Finding a workable socialism is one way to solve the fascist problem permanently, not just the Scandinavian version, which retains the capitalist elite, or state capitalism, which is a form of fascism, but something more cooperative. The way to get there is not to wait for state action but to Occupy Capitalism. As frequent readers know, I have a whole blog on how to do that which you can easily Google using my name. The other solution is to dispense with the advantages of whiteness. Having a permanently coddled group standing ready to vote for Fascists like Trump is not healthy for the growth of society. Cooperative socialism that looks for talent wherever it may be rather than among the socially favored is one way. Making the majority aware that what it clings to is a myth is the other. It’s why we march.

Friday, December 29, 2017

What the Qur’an Meant by Garry Wills

Garry Wills begins the book noting how misunderstood the Qur’an is, both by those who would use it for violence and by those who would hate it for that reason. He had heard that the Koran does not order the violence attributed to it, but had to admit he had never read it, hence the book. He found that it contains some similar stories and an organization by the size of the passage, rather than any chronological or topical order. The biggest Surah are first, the smallest last. None of the passages had any justification for the excesses of the Islamists, just as the Gospel has no justification for the violence of Christianity, from wars to inquisitions to current attempts to censure theologians or believers in ordaining women. Neither the Qur’an nor the Gospels was penned by Jesus or Muhammad. Transcription came from oral history. What is written is important, however, because the real believers are in the book, not the streets. Before getting into the book, Wills starts with addressing our ignorance about it and Islam, all having to do with the misguided decision to go to war in Iraq. He also credits The Study of Quran by Nasr et al in his search for understanding.

The first type of ignorance is secular ignorance. This relates to our lack of intelligence about Iraq itself, its lack of any involvement in 9-11 and the presence of weapons of mass destruction (although after Syria, it may be there were some that were moved west, but that is just my speculation. The main ignorance was assuming that, with the Soviets gone, the world had fallen to the neo-liberal ideal of democracy which should be exported to the world, especially to Iraq. After ”Mission Accomplished” the Iraqis should have embraced freedom so our military could move on (and let me add, maybe Iran?)/

The second type of ignorance is religious. The late 20th Century was becoming secular. The Fundamentalist started to fight back with its Year 2000 Project (although the rise of the Nones means not much success has been achieved, as if we could move the hearts of unbelievers by our rhetoric). This fundamentalism is revivalist, not marked by reason. It is deeply felt and reactionary.  It fights against modernization in the first and third worlds. Rumsfeld ignored the fact that the Iraqi people were not going to come quietly. The west saw the problem as Islam. It wasn’t. It was people in Iraq being told how to think. American reactionaries attacking Iraqi reactionaries is not a problem easily solved, with both parties coming from ignorance.  No wonder Trump is its crowning achievement. He has not a clue on Islam, which is why we must read the Qur’an, or at least this book, especially when Trump and our own fundamentalists fear us doing so, as occurred at UNC in 2002. Of course, this is not unique to Trump. In 2003, George W Bush acted with his faith and his gut and into Iraq we went.

Our fearful ignorance starts on September 11th.  The Patriot Act started the ball rolling. and spy budgets greatly increased, as did violence against Mosques and Muslims. There were attacks by Muslims, like the Boston Marathon bombing, but all were from fringe groups. Hate mongers seize on this, and get elected President because of it. The fear builds on both sides as Trump ban Muslims and both Obama and Trump use drones without worrying about the collateral damage. Iraq and Afghanistan have been long wars with no end in sight. The only way out must be understanding.

Wills starts his summation of the Qur’an by noting its setting. It is a Desert Book. Rain comes from God to revitalize the desert. It is the first item of creation. To survive, you must find it at an oasis by knowing the Path to get there. The Path is another name for the Way, which was what early Christianity called itself. Shari’ah is a religious path as well (a term used once). It is about survival, not conquest. Water is about purity. To be pure you must wash, sometimes using sand if necessary. Being without water harkens to the Israelites demanding water in the wilderness. (I would add the necessity of washing in Judaism as well). Water is both salty and sweet, with only sweet water in heaven. Also of the desert is the camel, both their reality and their use in predicting the end of time.

Next is the description of the watery Heaven, where it is abundant at any spot. It is garden always watered and an abundance of dates, grapes and rivers of milk,, honey, and a wine that does not make one drunk. Every spot is shaded there. It is, in essence, what the desert is not. Then there is Hell, with only boiling water to drink, with the only food, zaqqum, which increases thirst. Clothing is of fire and the punishments attack the mind and the skin, with the tongue proclaiming one’s own sin to others.

Chapter 5 is on conversing with a Cosmos of talking nature. This is a theme for Job, Jesus (the stones would shout) and Augustine querying creation as to whether it is God. It is almost like a Disney movie in some places, although the universe communicates silently in others. We
Agnostics in the AA Big Book is another example. God causes but is not of creation. Yet he is in his creatures, especially man, including in ourselves. Qur’an posits that the idea of the one is innate, with polytheism only arising later. This makes sense, since the multiplicity of gods are used to explain the human nature, not the divine one.

Chapter 6 gives us a perpetual stream of prophets, from Adam the repentant who sinned equally with his wife (whose name is not mentioned) rather than taking what was given him to Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the rest and Muhammad and with the belief that there is a prophet for each age in the future. Adam and Eve were mortal before eating the fruit, unlike the golden age Jewish and Christian myth. One must wonder if Islam has reacted to Darwin as negatively as the staunch traditionalists in Catholic and Evangelical Christianity who cannot accept it as a myth having to do with blame rather than a story of disobedience, repentance and salvation.  Abraham is tied to Isaac but also Ishmael, who assists him in rebuilding Ka’bah in Mecca. Muhammad tried to cleanse Ka’bah and was exiled to Medina, returning later to purge it of idols.  On Abraham, in Qur’an, it is Ishmael who is sacrificed before Isaac is born.

Moses is one of the big three prophets (with Jesus and Muhammad) because of the complete covenant made and his monotheism. His life and mission are laid out in Qur’an. The Qur’an says the three faiths should not argue because they have the same goal. Of course, Christianity has rejected the dietary rules of Leviticus and much of Numbers (like forced abortion to test for adultery). Indeed, the Sociology of Mary Douglas demystifies the Law in Torah as building a nation in exile rather than as a revelation directly from God. In a world of gay weddings serving scallops wrapped in bacon at the reception, can much of the Qur’an’s moral precepts survive as well?

Next comes Jesus, with his mother Mary, who is the only woman named in the Qur’an. He is still born of the Spirit and is to come again at the final judgment, but is not considered One with God, although he is word of Allah. God teaches him Torah, although I suspect he learned it the old fashioned way (by being a Pharisee) and came to his faith in his divinity, which Islam does not accept, by the miraculous nativity story told to him by Mary. Qur’an tells the same story, but with Jesus defending his mother’s honor as an infant, so she could not be the source for his understanding of his unique status.  Instead of the Spirit, in Qur’an, Jesus promises Muhammad.

Jesus is a Messenger of the Gospel, but not a divine sacrifice. He did not die but was brought to God. This will make it hard to reconcile a belief that the Father, Son and Spirit are manifestations of the one God, not three Gods, mostly because this would have muddled the message in a setting in Mecca where polytheism was the enemy. That is no longer a concern, but the brand identity problem persists, just like an asexual clergy limits the advance of Catholicism into the modern world. Both will struggle with the concept of Jesus as part of a divine vision quest into human abandonment rather than as either a bloody sacrifice or an escape to Heaven. The Qur’an preaches a continuity of revelation. It is in that spirit that I offer further options in reconciling scriptural law to natural law (rather than going the other way) and in finding new ways to consider the sacrifice of Jesus and the necessity of his divinity within it.

Chapter 7 offers the Qur’an’s peace to believers. It does not disrespect any other people of the book. It is the latest revelation that does not supplant the Torah or the Gospel. Still, Muslims cannot flee the Qur’an for penance shopping, nor should Jews flee the Torah and its punishments, which are harsher on adultery. Likewise, Christians cannot flee the Gospel (not mention of Paul). In this, the Qur’an faults the ecumenical councils that seemingly go beyond the Gospel to deify Jesus, while Jesus himself preaches the One God. this seems to be a matter for future revelation to Islam on what his meant by the Trinity. I took a stab at this for Muslims and Jews at Wills examines whether Qur’an has superseded Torah or the Gospels (it was not meant to), what to do with Apostates (honor Martyrs who were not) and affirms the family of believers in the one God. I wonder how Islam deals with Buddhists, who are actually a discipline rather than a religion?

Chapter 8 is about Zeal aka Jihaad. Zeal can become Zealot or Fanatic. It is a word like Crusade, which the Christian Right still does not disavow although cooler heads realize that crusades and inquisitions had nothing to do with the Gospel and are probably not a good way to oversee or monopolize the development of doctrine. I certainly found Dignitas Humanae uplifting for the Church while Dignitas Personae needed more discernment on the nature of the human soul. In Qur’an, just war is defensive war. There are rules, just as there is just war theory in Catholicism which seems more honored in the breach by today’s drone warriors. War was not to be waged around sacred sites like the Ka’bah in Mecca unless you are attacked.

Believers should attempt to reconcile before battle. Indeed, the war lords of Afghanistan seemed to do that with the US and we thought we were winning. Then we made the mistake of staying. Doers of evil should be left to themselves, that includes the misogynists of the Taliban (although perhaps we should allow passage to any Afghan woman who wants to leave with us). The unnamed Cain and Abel of Qur’an are an example of trying to avoid violence. Abel did not claim a right to pre-emptive murder because his brother was attacking him, so he was killed. Cain was then remorseful and sought mercy.

There are Sword verses in Qur’an and the Gospel. In Qur’an, in applies to idolaters, not Christians. In the Bible, it is used to mock carrying a sword, not to try to decapitate the High Priest’s servant. Jesus was making a joke about being a fugitive that Peter missed, as usual. Those ill-considered crusades came about because of the misunderstanding of Christ and the sword, which only brings death.  The Qur’an describes the taking of Mecca after exile and efforts to avoid collateral damage, something the CIA and Air Force could learn from. My father designed the autopilot for our drone systems. He meant them to save pilots, not to kill children. Some of my ancestors were American patriots. While we accepted French help, we believed in freeing ourselves on the field of battle. We cannot free people from the Taliban unless they are strong enough in spirit to hold that ideal. It is best we negotiate out now. Much as it would be delightful to have Ammon al-Zawahiri’s skull as a trophy, he is likely so old that it no longer matters. It is time to cut and run.

Chapter 9 takes us to the Right Path (Shari’ah), which is as misunderstood as Jihad. In the Qur’an, it is the basis for having a law for moral excellence, but it is not the law itself. Islamic law takes several forms, four for the Sunni and three for the Shia. Some are harsh, some are not. Many believers have abandoned the ones involving physical punishment just as Anglophones have abandoned burning heretics, pressing, hanging and drawing and quartering.

Those states that have outlawed Sharia have simply looked stupid. Sharia can be practiced as Canon Law is by Catholics. The phrases that are in Qur’an punish most crimes with alms, fasting or sexual abstinence. Unlike Islam, the west does not provide for foreign courts for its Muslim residents, although some Muslim nations do. American Muslims follow our civil law like anyone else. What they do devotionally is not a matter for U.S. law and infringing upon it is unconstitutional if it were enforced. It really cannot be because we don’t know enough about it.

I suspect that when most think of Shari’ah, they think of Saudi adulterers being beheaded or Daesh abusing other people of the Book, which is against Qur’an. In other words, they have a problem with the Saudis, whose law is called Hanbali. It would never be practiced here because it is cruel. Objecting to it, however, is the job of the Department of State, not any state legislature. I am all for forcing the Saudis to behave by measures from sanctions to invasion, but I doubt the current Secretary of State, a lifetime Exxon man, would agree.

Chapter 10 is about Commerce, which Muhammad knew something about as a merchant. He specified that commerce be written down, witnessed and equal. No one is allowed the upper hand. Goods must be of quality. Interest is allowed for long term transactions, but usury is not. You are not allowed to drive the other out of business with high fees. Unpayable debts are to be forgiven and God is a hidden party to all transactions and their execution. Hell is the penalty for bad intent unless forgiveness is sought.

You do commerce partly to be able to do Charity. When giving charity, you must give quality goods and food, not rubbish. Indeed, this parallels the idea in Matthew 25, where when you feed another, you feed Jesus. Do you want to give Jesus old clothes and rotted food?

There is no capitalism in this system, it is merely trade, but you easily see how modern capitalism is disagreeable to the Muslim commercial ideals. I pity the fool who adopts western models over what is required in Qur’an, as Allah still watches all. I find it hard to believe that Allah approves of monopsonistic wage structures that keep workers desperate and monopolistic pricing, especially for medicines, but cars as well. Don’t start me on housing finance. Islamic Socialism was a real thing, although sometimes it came with tyranny. It is time to include it any future cooperative socialist structure offered by other people of the Book.

Chapter 11 is about plural marriage and the status of women. Not polygamy, which is multiple marriages, but polygyny, which is having multiple wives. It is essential to establish such a system if you want to enforce discipline on women through withholding sex should she not respond to guidance. If all else fails, corporal punishment was advised, which is one of those verses that people struggle with now and not even something you can do in the West. In Qur’anic times, women and many men were not literate. Of course, this is still the case in some tribal areas in South Asia, but this is less all the time.

I suspect that these teachings applied to richer men, including the Prophet and his Harem and not to most Islamic marriages. There were Jewish examples of Polygyny in ancient times. It no longer happens. Teachings for Muhammad’s harem and descendants included limits on sumptuary finery (the Prophet tried to live modestly), use divorce as punishment, be careful marrying the wives of stepsons, and don’t allow scandal in the harem, especially false accusations. Also, be careful of the rotation of the conjugal relations, especially when an event changes the order. Of course, sometimes coupling is just companionship. There is more to marriage than sex. Radical Mormons have found that as well.

Chapter 12 shows how women fight back. They are entitled upon marriage to a bridal sum that they can leave with if they divorce their husbands or are divorced. Even without consummation they can take half of it unless they or the husband waives their share. If their husbands follow the Qur’an, they are not left destitute, especially if they marry well. This limits the ability of the husband to be high-handed or resort to hitting too much, or even once.

There is an equivalent in the United States. Divorce leaves women or men with half of their spouses retirement savings automatically and a portion of Social Security or Military Retirement. I am sure there are such provisions throughout the west, but Islam seems to have come up with them first. Being divorced in ancient Israel led to prostitution. Not so in Islam. The right to leave and remarry is a freedom not found in Catholicism, although other Christians seem to proof text St. Mark better when Jesus talks about divorcing a wife and, which should be in order to, marry another as being adultery. This is after polygyny was ended in Judaica or else one would have simply added the new talent and kept the first wife. Understanding this as one act should allow the Church to calm down on the issue of remarriage. As long as getting the new spouse was not the reason for ending the first marriage, it is not adulterous. Putting words in the mouth of Jesus that it is so is simply bad proof texting.

Chapter 13 covers the veil. Fighting against the veil has a bad history with western colonialists trying to disrupt wearing it to upset sexual relations in colonized Muslim nations. This is as bad as our agenda in Afghanistan, where the Taliban were and are cruel to women, at least in our eyes and probably in theirs, but this is not so much an Islamic thing as a tribal thing. Of course, in Islamic just war, you do not wage war simply because the enemy does evil things. You leave them to God. Still, I would propose offering free flights to any Afghan woman who wants to escape. I suspect the Taliban will come around quickly. A society that believes in freedom of expression and dress should not assume that it can tall others when to put away their traditional garb. Catholic sisters largely have, nuns have not. That the French went after the veil is scandalous. While Muslim women should be free not to wear it in western society, by the same token they should be free to. Qur’an says little on this. The Prophet’s wives veiled when dealing with the public and worked through a screen, thus keeping some amount of privacy. Indeed, this was not a general teaching, but if you live in a desert, men and women cover their heads to survive (see chapter 4). Finally, there is the question of women covering their charms by a more modest neck line. Whether these were décolletage or jewelry is not clear from Qur’an.

The Envoi on Fairness in reading should be read for oneself. It reiterates why this is an important exercise.

Peace be upon you.

Also see the National Catholic Reporter review at

Faruq F.A. Nelson has problems with how Wills presents the material, which is meant to be proclaimed in Arabic. He states what the book does is commentary, which is surely true, just as what I have done above is commentary on the commentary. Faruq also comments on the organization of the chapters, both within and among themselves, but Wills is not teaching Qur’an. He is helping his usual Catholic audience better understand Islam where they have not bothered to do so before. I do not believe any of his audience are looking for a conversion experience, but it is helpful to fund common ground on the issues facing the people of the book today, including the Saudi funded terrorists whose actions show nothing in the way of understanding Qur’an or their own traditions. If we can pity them rather than hate them, we can begin to move forward.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

This year in Modernism from the Catholic Left

I have been quite busy this year writing about dissent, authority and scholarship. Here is a listing of readings that you can look at as whole or individually:
Jesus, the Pharisee?

This Year on Abortion and Homosexuality from the Catholic Left

These are the articles in which I argue against what the pro-life side is doing and how it can do better and why the conversation on homosexuality is a ruse. I do not include the many posts I made on the Center for Fiscal Equity site urging Congress to expand the child tax credit to living wage levels, which you can read at:
Dignitas Personae at Nine Years
How is Life a Right? A Letter to Pro-Lifers
New authentic interpreter of doctrine emerges, frets over Paglia
Comments from this weekend’s debate on abortion
Sex and pleasure
Dissent and Obedience in the Church
Four Reasons for Cake Bakers
Is the clergy objectively disordered sexually?
The Pro-Life Movement as a Scam
The Right Wing Holy Grail, Constitutional Conventions!
Answering the Five Dubia

Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square - November edition
Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square - October edition
Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square - September edition
Religious Freedom/Religious Power:Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square - July edition
Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square - May Edition
Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square-April

Monday, December 18, 2017

Jesus, the Pharisee?

Today, we celebrated the Third Sunday of Advent, which includes the famous dialog between John and the priests and Levites, and then with the Pharisees. The latter is most interesting:

Some Pharisees were also sent. 
They asked him,
"Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?"
John answered them,
"I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie."

In this discussion, he was plainly speaking with members of the Pharisee party, not the public at large. The interesting line is ”there is one among you whom you do not recognize,..” What if John is being literal here.

It would answer the question of the lost years. He probably did not stay a day laborer because his brothers did not. His nephews, the sons of his sister or half-sister Salome were the sons of Zebedee. Being a fisherman is a lot more lucrative than day labor, but Jesus was not one of their partners. This verse shows that he may have gone to his Father’s house after all.  Were Pharisees mostly married? If so, this answers the question of whether Jesus was.

This would certainly add a twist to all of those times Jesus condemns the Pharisees. He would be speaking as a reforming insider rather than a rebellious outsider. Consider all of those times he had Pharisees with him, even until the washing of the feet by Mary of Bethany. Were they monitoring him or were they colleagues? He certainly attacked the Sadducees like a Pharisee.

This question makes the betrayal narrative much more profound. Was Jesus betraying his party or trying to perfect it? If he was not their enemy then he probably loved them and they him. This makes the actions of Gethsemane and Calvary all the more shocking and it explains why Joseph would provide Jesus a tomb.

There is no proof of course, indeed while the current understanding goes the other way, perhaps it should not. It is an interesting question to keep in mind as we listen to the Gospel throughout the year.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square - October edition

I found the October edition of Voice of Truth - The Catholic Voice in the Public Square when I found the September edition which I commented on earlier today. This issue was about protesting funding of Planned Parenthood and other abortionists, an issue I had previously addressed. Federal Medicaid funds do not cover abortion except for rape, incest and when the life of the mother is in danger. The funding of such abortions is so remote from any individual taxpayer that they are not justified in withholding their taxes as a response (so say Catholic ethics textbooks).

Maryland opts to use its own Medicaid funds to cover abortions. It is one of few states who do. If a Human Life Amendment were ever submitted, Maryland would not ratify. Indeed, if Roe were repealed, there is already a permissive abortion law on the books. Even here in Maryland, the funding is too remote for any single taxpayer to object.

As for what Catholics hold as the Truth, all your reminders are false. While the Declaration relied on Divine Providence (on a Deist/Masonic model), the Constitution relies on We the People, the unanimity of the states in submitting the Constitution and those who ratified it, not by God, either implicitly or explicitly and if it had, it would been more Masonic than Catholic. We were created by mothers and fathers before Adam and Eve, who are mythical.

Science has proven that blastocysts are made up of the future placenta/bag of waters and individually independent stem cells who do not operate as an organic whole until gastrulation, which is why doctors and researchers do not believe they harm individuals when doing research or prescribing birth control prior to gastrulation but treat post-gastrulation embryos (an technically, no one is an embryo until then) with respect unless the pregnancy endangers the mother (including the prospect of self-termination).

Moses did not ban abortion and the author of Numbers mandated it when adultery was expected (Num 6). Indeed, that was the part of the Law that is referred to when Joseph is said to have been a righteous man not willing to subject Mary to the Law, which would have had her drink bitter herbs, thus aborting the Christ.

Catholic Doctrine only recognized abortion as starting at conception under Bl Pius IX (who was wrong about most things he touched as well. All of the things he called errors are now called modern theology and scripture study. As for the Declaration of Independence (which, by the way, was ruled not to be used as legal precedent when someone claimed it contained a right of revolution under the Constitution), the government has no right to force abortion. That is also true in the Fifth Amendment. Not mandating it and allowing it are two different rights.

Understanding the right to life is important. There are positive and negative rights. Negative rights protect women from state abortion laws until the child is viable. They also protect the unborn and the born from being killed by the government through forced abortion or maternal execution. In other words, they have the same negative right to life anyone else does. Positive rights are created by the government, such as a child tax credit and the right not to be murdered, whether it be by a mobster, a mugger or your mother as an infant. That positive law has not been extended to the unborn, who the Common Law states are only recognized as legal persons vis-a-vis their mothers at viability.

Under the 14th Amendment, congressional enforcement powers could move that to any point that they deem the fetus should be considered a person. Equal protection would demand that all such fetuses and/or embryos have the same rights, which in the first trimester includes embryos which have miscarried, those rights being post-mortem investigation and Tort relief for malpractice. Aborted fetuses would also have the equal protection right to have their killers punished, including the person who ordered their death. Indeed, the equal protection rights of contract killers would be violated if mothers were exempt. The right to life movement, in an attempt not to look anti-feminist, has painted itself into a corner by taking maternal punishment off the table. No one is person if their murder is not as fully punished as any other person. Until you come up with a number of weeks where the abortion is so onerous that it must be punished, then that abortion is none of your business.

Once you agree on a number, take it to Congress while you still have Republicans controlling both chambers and modify by law when unborn children are legal people. I would say 25 weeks, but you might get away with 20, provided there are health exceptions of course. No fetus as the right to insist its mother carry him if it is doomed to die before birth. That is too much of a health risk. Labor should be induced immediately to end the pregnancy, baptize the child and let it die. The bishops may not like it, but moral cowardice is a true feature of natural law ethics.

In most cases, abortion is paid by cash. In those states, you are more likely to fund an abortion by eating out than by paying your taxes, because abortions are one of those things that low wage workers buy, because they have to so they can feed their other children. They are part of the 72% of abortions due to economic factors. Banning abortion will not stop them from seeking one. The best way to stop these abortions, and the ones in Maryland, is to Fight for $15. This has already passed in Montgomery County.

A decent child tax credit is necessary. The one insisted upon by Marco Rubio is about $10,600 short. Another reason that killing the Tax and Job Cuts Act should be scored as required for a 100% pro-life rating. All we get from Republican pro-lifers on such a request is the sound of crickets.

Mentioning the Affordable Care Act is highly partisan, although there are relevant measures. Some Obamacare policies do allow abortion because they are replacing insurance coverage provided by employers who received the health insurance exclusion (which is still in the GOP tax bill) which does not have a Hyde Amendment. Most tax law supported abortion comes through such tax law. As for the canard that we can all keep our own doctors, it was a mistake to say because policies that were insurance in name only because if you used them you exhausted them became illegal, as well they should have. Insurance premiums went up because they always go up because there is no cost regulation of either drug prices or hospital fees. Single-payer would do that. It is the only Catholic option (and it could exclude abortion funding but would likely include a line of credit account to guarantee access). Regardless, 3100 of your 5100 Adult Lay Catholics in St. Mary’s support Obamacare. Don’t commit calumny about it in our names. I’ve seen you do it twice. Do it again and I complain to Monsignor.

On clinic funding, funds are not fungible. OMB Circulars on keeping funds separate are serious business. PPUSA knows not to violate them. Don’t lie in our names. If you do not like PPUSA providing women’s health services (which do include contraception), then have Holy Cross (and other Catholic hospitals provide all but contraceptive care is as convenient and subsidized a manner as PPUSA. Poor and not-poor African American women are at much greater risk of breast cancer. BEFORE you defund PPUSA for mammograms, make sure something else is in place for them, although I can’t see the bishops letting them provide birth control, as they are unwilling to look at the science on blastocysts v. embryos. Neither do the Little Sisters of the Poor, who have avoided fines if only they make a deal on notification with their insurance provider, as the Supreme Court directed. Their religious liberty stands protected, their religious power over their workforce is not and should not be.

Please study closely what I have submitted today about the nature of rights and abortion. Until you understand it, you will continue to wander in the wilderness. But do not wander too long. The Congress will change hands in a bit more than a year from now. You have until then to decide at what point in the pregnancy abortion must be considered infanticide, with parental punishment, with that point being where you can protect the unborn under law (while recognizing that earlier cases are none of society’s business except to give money to the family once the child is born.

I won’t be joining your group, although you should consider my arguments prayerfully, and I don’t being praying not to be misled, you already are. Try to find a less partisan tone.

Another Catholic Voice in the Public Square - September edition

I found where they kept the old issues of Voice of the Truth - The Catholic Voice in the Public Square that I missed when I was home with broken ribs. this is my response to the September 2017 edition.  This reads like a civics paper.  I used to grade these as a doctoral student.  It would not have been an A paper, both for the outraged tone and a misunderstanding of the concept of rights, particularly that they are both negative (protection against the state) and positive (provided by the state).

They first provide quotes from the Declaration of Independence, including the phrase "a decent respect of the opinions of mankind."  They miss the point that this also applies to how we deal with women and that how reproductive rights are guaranteed is part of the rights that women deserve.  They also cite, as all good Christian Republicans do, the seeking of Divine Providence.  History tells us that the person who wrote that line was a Deist, as was Franklin, although Adams was Congregationalist.  Not a Catholic in the bunch.  When they get to the Bill of Rights they put in Declaration text instead of Fifth Amendment text about life, liberty and property without due process (which makes no mention of God).

They do mention the First Amendment as well.  Until Vatican II, the Church was strongly opposed to the First Amendment.  They believed every nation should have an established Catholic Church.  that insanity stopped with Dignitas Humanae, which no longer requires Catholic public servants to enact Catholic doctrine into law.  We want to, of course, but how we do so is a matter of prudential judgment.  Forcing an abortion ban should not be required if we are serious about true doctrine.

The authors fast forward to 1820 and de Tocqueville and the lack of central government, which the authors credit to the Bill of Rights.  In reality, it is the lack of taxation that kept the government small and the rich very rich.  It also produced the states' rights doctrine (which pro-lifers try to use as the method to ban abortion), but that doctrine produced slavery, which made people on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line rich and gave us Dred Scott.  The Fourteenth Amendment, which we first saw as Article 14 of the Bill of Rights as passed by the House and removed by the Senate, demolished states rights theory, from undoing Dred Scott to guaranteeing abortion rights for women and gay marriage (as negative rights, meaning state governments cannot interfere).

They remark about elementary schools reciting the Pledge, which is more GOP than right to life, if there is a difference.  I suspect my daughter still recites it in her Tennessee middle school, although it was a Cold War artifact.  Last I checked, we had won, although sometimes I wonder with Trump as President.

They also look at Russell Hittinger and his new natural law theory.  I like the old natural law, the one that does not give the Roman Curia and the Papacy a veto over reason.  As for American Law, it is based on natural rights, not natural law.  There is a huge difference. Natural rights are how we deal with the state. Natural law is how we order our consciences, not how we try to control society.

There is quite the discussion of Pope Leo, which I agree with, although both Leo and Pius XI had ideas about the family which are now decidedly quaint - see my comment near the top about the rights of women.  They both hit the nail on the head regarding a family wage, whether the employer provides it (economically impossible for many) or the state does (say through a child tax credit), it must be provided and doing so is NOT a matter of prudential judgment.  An adequate CTC is, according to USDA, $1000 per month, not $1400 per year.  The GOP has a long way to go before it is really the Party of Life - more than $800 a month.

Minus ten points for an incorrect use of subsidiarity.

We then get to the 1960s (it was a four page newsletter) and the authors talk about what seemed to be a coordinated rebellion against the establishment, including the Church, although neither I nor they were off the playground, or even born, by that time.  The comprehensive story of that rebellion is in the book 1959, the Year Everything Changed.   It turns out that in the 50s (and this is not new information) the Catholic Church in America was poking its nose into everything, seeking not religious freedom, but religious power.  The birth control and marriage debates are an attempt at past glory, but have been two of the most notable failures of the last fifty years.

The next section carries that theme, from Jerry Falwell, who claimed Mission Accomplished once the Berlin Wall fell (he had a point, St. John Paul II's trip to Fatima seems to have worked).  They talk about a culture in disarray, but look has been elected President.  He watches FoxNews which until this past week was owned by the owner of the trashiest entertainment company, both TV and records, on the planet.  You don't even have to leave the world of Murdoch to find the corruption his talking heads complain about, or the kind of sexual abuse that turns all of our stomachs.  And if you don't have enough, you can go to the Republican Party of Alabama. Luckily a hero of civil rights litigation challenged them and won, putting Trump's attempts at alt-right and big money hegemony at risk.  The Congressional rating is well earned, although it is mostly earned by those who would insist on the Hastert Rule, in McConnell blocking Obama and in trying to circumvent the impeachment of a corrupt and unqualified President who lied to Catholic voters and claimed to be pro-life. Republican Gerrymandering keeps an unqualified Congress in place.

No conservative should lecture progressives on a corrupt society until they examine their own side.

And stop with the tax cuts.  Rome declined because it was unwilling to tax its patrician class adequately.  Until we do, we cannot distribute enough money to families to stop abortion.

The question of how to respond is interesting.  The authors say not to cooperate with sin.  The term of art is cooperating with evil. If it is not evil to give one kind of civilly married spouse benefits (which is sinful) then you cannot decline them to another civilly married kind of spouse unless you are practicing bigotry, which is sinful - for you.  Faith is about seeking God's help in finding your moral answers, not in judging the conduct of others.

Going back to the age of the Founders, the end of the Revolutionary was was interesting.  It did not end the way the King or generals wanted it to.  It ended with an election and the Tories being thrown out of Parliament.  After Yorktown, the Continental Army mostly disbanded while the Crown was billeted in Manhattan.  Any given Sunday they could have sent thirteen Companies out and captured each state capital, pretty much unopposed.  By then, Parliament held all the cards.

There is also the judiciary, which the authors do not mention, which is not accountable to the people (one of its virtues) but which usually does not go too far ahead of them either, as was evident in gay marriage, which could have been declared in Lawrence v. Texas.

The ending screed against progressivism is inflammatory.  Lincoln was a progressive and only a progressive solution will reduce abortion.   We are as constitutionalist as the other side, probably more so regarding the need to impeach Trump.  Indeed, our constitutionalism stands for the rights of all those the majority would marginalize (including those who are differently ordered sexually).  At the Centennial in 1876, progressives used the Declaration of Independence as a model for protesting how workers were treated by capitalists and their unaccountable Senate.  We used Article V to change the Constitution to stop it, as intended.

Not long ago, I was in a discussion on rights, positive and negative, and how they apply to the unborn.  You can see my half of the discussion at  The unborn actually have an absolute right to life vis-a-vis the government, who cannot force any woman to have an abortion or execute one who is pregnant.  Beyond that, abortion protection is a positive grant of life, like not being murdered.  The current Court considers some late term abortions (partial birth) as Infanticide.  Abortion is what happens before Infanticide and is allowed under privacy because the unborn person has no legal status under the 14th Amendment, which is the operative provision of law on who is and is not a person.

Congress can change the line on when Abortion becomes Infanticide.  You have a Congress in place now who might.  Put up or shut up.  The trick is that once an abortion is considered infanticide, equal protection demands legal sanctions for both mother and doctor.  You cannot order murder and not be punished.  The pro-life movement says that the mother will not be prosecuted, that she is somehow a victim of an evil abortion machine.  Baloney.  Until you decide what week of pregnancy you will hold the mother responsible for killing her child, abortion stays legal.  Pick a week and tell Congress to enact it into law, then confine the rest of your efforts to providing a living wage to families so that they won't consider abortion.  And quit using abortion to elect Republicans, since they won't go along with a high enough child tax credit to stop people from resorting to abortion.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dignitas Personae at Nine Years

Nine years ago yesterday, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s released an instruction on biotechnology, entitled Dignitas Personae. At the time, I made comments on John Allen’s coverage on National Catholic Reporter which NCR did not preserve. I will try to duplicate them here and expand upon them. You can find the article on

The instruction was designed to intervene in any changes President Obama would make in NIH guidelines put forward by President Bush which banned what was mislabeled as embryonic stem cell research. Indeed, Pope Benedict went out of his way to give President Obama a copy when he visited Rome. Obama changed the guidelines anyway to allow stem cell research on cells harvested from blastocysts. None of the research has born fruit, but it was not designed to. Adult cell research survives the filter of gastrulation, so we know the cells harvested are viable. Pre-gastrulation cells are most likely junk. The only value of pre-gastrulation cell research is developing methods for cloning, which is no more shocking to the conscience than making a twin, although a twin won’t have the same personality because it will have different astrology.

The CDF had a great many concerns regarding the human dignity of blastocysts, which are essentially collections of stem cells, all identical, dividing inside a trophoblast, which becomes the placenta. They have no integrity until gastrulation, when the stem cells organize into a person according to the genetics of both parents. Indeed, in stem cell research, the stem cells are not harmed, only the trophoblast. Still, at this point, they are simply cells, not organisms. The CDF list of horribles included: assisted fertility, including but not only in vitro fertilization (they disagreed with anything outside the sex act), destruction of unused zygotes (no, Cardinal, they are not embryos until after gastrulation), intracytoplasmic sperm injection (turkey baster), freezing zygotes (they are not embryos), freezing eggs for later (IVF is more effective), reduction of embryos (which is abortion), preimplantation diagnosis and preventing implantation. You can read the instruction at

All but embryonic reduction have zero problems in relation to the right to life because prior to gastrulation, the stem cells dividing as individuals in the trophoblast are simply not a human being. Undifferentiated cells have no guiding soul. You can split the trophoblast and take half away and you have twins. The trophoblast functions according to the maternal DNA (and therefore her soul) and is discarded at birth.

Future developments, which until recently were considered science fiction, were also condemned: Gene therapy germ line cell therapy (inheritable gene therapies), genetic engineering, human cloning, stem cell research, chimera (adding human DNA to animal to grow an ear), untraceable tissue harvesting. I discussed stem cell research, including cloning, above. The rest of these will work, will not work or have worked, some will prove therapeutic and their ethical issues will be discussed as the technologies go to market and that discussion will have a wider reach than the troglodytes at the CDF.

The Cardinals at CDF thought all of these procedures immoral because they assumed the stem cells were more than atomized potential beings, and indeed, most of these potential beings are in some way flawed and no child is ever born from them.

Scientists understand this and have no problem with any of these procedures as taking life. While they will not say so directly, it is telling that most will not do anything to interfere with an embryo after gastrulation, at least unless there is something wrong with it, and then many will still not interfere unless that flaw endangers the mother. This is one of those times the Church must listen to science.

The other problem the Cardinals have is their quaint view that all life must begin with a sexual union between a man and a woman and no other form of sexuality is permissible. Such moral idealism serves no one and is likely the result of their celibacy not being a charism but a sexual orientation known as asexuality. Being asexual is fine, but assuming that your asexual hang-ups apply to anyone else is why Ottoviani and Pope Paul VI were laughed out of town when they issued Humanae Vitae. It is why Digitas Personae had one week of fanfare and was never heard from again.

Here is what I said at the time in America Magazine in response to an editorial by Drew Christiansen, SJ entitled  “Science, Technology and the Human Future: A new instruction on bioethics from the Vatican”

“The sexual ideal represented in the Congregation's statement is beautiful poetry and idealism. Human sexuality is far more ambiguous, however. While the goal of all sexuality being focused around married conjugal love open to the creation of life is very poetic, there is a point when one must distinguish a poetic aesthetic from natural reasoning, which must be more firmly based in reality then can ever be provided by a celibate Curia which formally held that one cannot say Mass or receive the Eucharist for a period after engaging in conjugal relations. The CDF must be more open to the sciences of both embryology and human sexual behavior to recapture any kind of teaching credibility with what is now a much better educated Catholic populace.”

It is not that I dislike the idea of falling in love, getting married and having children. Most people like that ideal. Gays and lesbians even like that idea. There is simply no need to be fetishistic about the sexuality or the science involved, with the exception of culling children in the womb or eliminating Down’s Children. Of course, if the Church wants to insist on protecting the latter, it must ramp up the respite care for all Down’s families, Catholic or not, as well as adult services for these individuals, with both contributed and dedicated taxpayer funds. Without very obvious assistance, don’t be shocked if families take the path of least resistance.

A few months later, John Allen covered a Vatican Symposium by the Pontifical Academy for Life entitled “New Frontiers of Genetics and the Risk of Eugenics." No loaded language there, eh? The article can be found (sadly without my  comments, and I had been looking for them) at 

Eugenics used to be an in thing and the Church rightly stood up for the rights of racial minorities (such as Romany) and the mentally disabled to procreate. Sadly, they went from pro-creative choice to the sexual idealism discussed above. Here are the five major criticisms of progress, which I will answer in turn, just as I did almost nine years ago. Hopefully discussion will result.

1. Genetic engineering may compromise human freedom by hard-wiring people toward certain behaviors, attitudes, and life choices. Critics often invoke C.S. Lewis' famous work "The Abolition of Man," in which he argued that the first generation to master genetic technology would become the architect of succeeding generations, thus eradicating "man" in the sense of a free rational agent.

Carl Jung posited racial memory, which could be a kind of genetic predisposition to a certain set of values and abilities. My great-grandfather started the cooperative movement in American agriculture and I am expanding it to industry and making it more socialistic. Nature has been noticing talents running in families for millennia. Using gene therapy to fix asthma, depression or prevent adrenal tumors (likely inherited from a grandmother) won’t stop that.

2. Children may be subject to new forms of exploitation, such as the phenomenon of "savior babies" -- offspring deliberately conceived in order to provide genetic materials for siblings or other family members, obviously without informed consent.

Healthy children have been transplanting healthy tissue to sick children since transplants have been invented. Usually it saves lives in leukemia in a bone marrow transplant. The promise of genetic engineering is taking stem cells from the patient, modifying them and letting them be their own donor. Are intra-family donations complicated? Sure. But they always were.

3. "Genetic profiling" could lead to new forms of discrimination in health care, insurance, employment, housing, and other sectors, as the rights of genetic "undesirables" are progressively curtailed.

No doubt about this one, which is why we need single-payer health care, British style national-health service or employer provided doctors in employee-owned companies which provide housing and which boldly stand for equality as more socialist employers will do. Public law should also provide protection and much more vigorous enforcement. In cases where a genetic condition is a bar to employment, disability payments should be much more generous, guaranteeing an advanced urban lifestyle for those rejected from the daily grind. Sadly, conservatives will object to the disability stipends more than the discrimination.

4. The high cost of genetic enhancement will likely mean that only the rich will be able to afford it. As a result, inequality will be deliberately encoded in our genes -- a prospect some refer to as "genetic apartheid". The children of the rich will not only be richer, but stronger, faster, better-looking, and smarter.

Again, with decent single-payer, public health or employer provided health, all families will be rich enough for therapy. Again, the conservatives will object to the free therapy more than they oppose unequal enhancement.

5. Genetic selection may disrupt human ecology. One already sees this potential in India and China, where widespread use of cheap ultrasound technology has led parents to abort female children at a much higher rate because they're perceived as less desirable. The natural sex ratio is about 105 boys for 100 girls, but in India today it's 113 boys for every 100 girls, and in some regions it's as high as 156 boys per 100 girls. In China, the sex ratio has gone as high as 120 boys for every 100 girls, which among other things could mean that a fifth of Chinese men won't be able to marry for lack of available mates.

This is a self-correcting problem. While some men without women have chased the prospect of their virgins in paradise after acts of jihad, most will simply realize that it’s time to quit aborting girls. Such societies need revolution for other reasons having to do with the rights of women and workers. Genetic selection is a symptom.