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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

ACA Hits 20 Million | National Catholic Reporter

ACA Hits 20 Million | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Numbers are never news, problems are.  Sadly, there are items that require legislative correction that won't be addressed because of the intransigence of the Republicans and their donors.  One of these is employer mandate - which needs language to exclude workers who are insured elsewhere,  say, through their spouses and parents or Medicaid.  That would limit the problem the low wage worker industries (restuarants, theaters, etc) who need coverage and give it to those who need it but still don't have the money for the individual exchanges. A second area is the language on subsidies for exchanges that is in legal dispute.  Third is the situation of families like mine, where one spouse gets health care for themselves and possibly the children, but who cannot afford adding the other spouse - due to money or their pre-existing condition or the imminense of divorce. In many cases (like mine), the total family income is too high to get a subsidy and the second spouse cannot afford insurance because they have no job or a minimum wage job whiled not being eligible for the subsidy.  The ability to split a family without making it official by one person moving out may not be feasible for the uninsured person would make it possible for more people to get insurance.

Coulter Slams Dolan | National Catholic Reporter

Coulter Slams Dolan | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Ann is an idiot.  Dolan speaks out BECAUSE he believes in God.  Coulter is afraid that this issue will take Catholics out of the GOP.  She wants the Republican bishops to behave.  The joke is on her.  Its on the bishops too, who need to look at whether they themselves are being used as useful idiots in the pro-life movement - which many believe is more about electoral politics than the unborn.

Michael Stafford on Immigration Crisis | National Catholic Reporter

Michael Stafford on Immigration Crisis | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: These are the usual quotes, although whether Jacob and his family turned into Cecil B. De Mille's cast of thousands or a large extended family who went to Mt. Horeb to worhip is a matter for archeology and the archeology says the latter.  As for Jesus' journey - that may be one instance which was put in for the symbolism - the fact that there is no evidence of the martyrdom of the innocents is telling.  Still, the right wingers may be convinced by such rhetoric but are more likely to be moved by how bad their little outbursts polled.  These little domonstrations are not spontaneous and I would hope that their funders are not entirely tone deaf.  Now is not the time to politicize this issue - although doing so has drawn attention to the fact that many of these children are being railroaded out of the country - even if their family is here.

Archbishop Chaput at Napa Institute | National Catholic Reporter

Archbishop Chaput at Napa Institute | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I had been wondering when Archibishop Chaput would speak about Francis.  He seemed to be MIA.  That his speech was to Napa is no surprise nor is the last of an enthusiastic tone.  Still, it was honest.  Now, whether he honestly is coming out to show he is on-board in order to get his red hat or not was not discussed by MSW, although I would not doubt that. I suspect that cleaning up the the Archdiocese' abysmal performance on child sexual abuse (with one Monsignor now serving in jail) will have more impact on this question.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Julia Young: History of U.S.-Mexico Border and RC Efforts | National Catholic Reporter

Julia Young: History of U.S.-Mexico Border and RC Efforts | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Interesting bit of history, although I would have liked to have her call them Mexican-Americans, which they were from the second that New Mexico, Arizona and Texas were made part of the United States.  The immigrants were the white settlers.  The discrimination, which continues - though without legal sanction - is largely because of racist guilt that every colonizer exhibits - and we are a nation of not only immigrants, but also colonizer.  Sadly, the racism came about because the legal theory was that Mexican Americans were white, and therefor were not covered by the 14th Amendment equal protection clause.  It took a Supreme Court case and that start of the expansion of the meaning of that Amendment (the kind that Justice Scalia fights against) that in short order protected contraception and abortion - and later consenual sodomy and soon marriage equality.

The Pro-life Catholic Bishops have a mixed record on that issue - it would throw out all the privacy provisions and some of the equal protection ones (even though those same provisions give at least legal, if not physical protection to the Church in the Deep South - particularly in Alabama).  The Amendment has also helped undocumented immigrants, who have an equal right to assistance and education, despite numerous attempts to stop them.  At least there, the Church has been supportive.  Sadly, there are Catholic nativists now - including those who never quite accepted the American citizenship of Mexican-Americans - even though they likely call themselves pro-life.

Phil Lawler's Amish Culture | National Catholic Reporter

Phil Lawler's Amish Culture | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I remember this issue - it involved services to immigrants under federal contract including referral to abortion services when human trafficking is an issue.  The Hyde Amendment does not apply here, becauce trafficked women who are pregnant are assumed to be raped.  This provision was not part of the old contract and the Church sued (and lost) when they did not get that particular human trafficking services contract, even though Catholic Charities was the best performer on all other measures. I've also hear of the Virginia Beach Catholic Charities office - probably on this contract - have an employee actually drive a refugee to an abortion clinic - which shows that the workforce and the hierarchy are not always on the same page and this is one area where ambiguity is not allowed. The answer, however, is not to get out of contracting in pursuit of social service (indeed, it should be expanded to include Catholic Charter Schools and Catholic Vo-tech Charter High Schools), but to instead be active during the comment period in stating that the abortion piece must be part of a separate effort.  Of course, the Church would still have to cooperate with that contractor or that contractor would have to devise some way of interacting with immigrant clients in another venue, say a medical exam (provided it is not at a Catholic hospital).  Its a serious issue, but it does not require disengagement - but active engagement on this issue.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Paul Ryan's Anti-Poverty Plan | National Catholic Reporter

Paul Ryan's Anti-Poverty Plan | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: If MSW means by wedge issues that Republicans are favoring the Democrats over gay marriage then that would be news indeed. Actually, the Log Cabin Republicans were in the vangaurd of this issue early on.

As for Ryan on poverty, any speech to AEI does not inspire awe. I am glad he is concerned for the poor (he has to be as a Catholic), but lets remembr that the EITC and enterprise zones are standard Repbulican proposals, although the former is way too complicated (as a boon to tax preparers) and the latter is one of the President's active proposals, which was news because Jack Kemp did it.  The real news would be Ryan supporting the Obama initiative.  Additionally, The idea of one stop for assistance is not old. Alexandria, Virginia and presumably the state have been doing it for years.

What would be revolutionary is to pay beneficiaries to make up deficits in education while paying them a generous child trax credit (and pay the same to workers through their employers) with that pay.  Ending TANF and Food stamps are good ideas, as long as they are replace by unencumbered payouts.  As for Mediaid, I would end it for the poor and instead fund the agency providing the training to add the clients to the same plan the employees get.  Now this would be anti-poverty according to the Golden Rule.

I also saw a part of the piece on the O'Donnell show.  The fact that he gave it a sympathetic hearing pretty much is all that needs to be said about how MSNBC is as biased as FoxNews.  While they are reflexively Democratic, they justify their positions with fact.  As far as engaging Ryan, the Democrats won't (except for the fact that Obama has done most of what Ryan is saying to do, I know, I filled out the form for aid) engage because Ryan is not brining anything forward - at least not this year.  I suspect that this speech was to remove the fear of thim becoming Ways and Means Chair after his disasterous Randian plan to cut Medicaid made such an appointment less credible.  If anyone is engaging him on the issues, it is I - and I'm a Green.  Perhaps this is where you should look for new ideas.  The Democrats are about to join Hillary Clinton in an embrace with the Democratic Leadersip Council (actually, she's already a member).

MSW, if you want to engage anyone with answers in the fight against poverty, then take a look at my paragraph starting with the words "What would be revolutionay..."

In Praise of Naps | National Catholic Reporter

In Praise of Naps | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I work and blog at night, so I am not sure what is normal sleep or napping any more.  I guess I will find out when I go back to a real job.  I used to nap during my lunch break when I had a private office, but those days are long gone.  Maybe they will come back.  It used to be, when offices became non-smoking, that you would get a smoke break.  A nap break is not so far off and is essential for carbohydrate addicts and people who take meds with food (prozac nation strikes again).

Pope Francis Meets Sudanese Woman Spared Death Penalty for Apostasy | National Catholic Reporter

Pope Francis Meets Sudanese Woman Spared Death Penalty for Apostasy | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: For those waiting on the details of the meeting, they are, though originally meant to be private.  That all keep it private thing never worked for the Master either.

Dolan Comes Out Swinging | National Catholic Reporter

Dolan Comes Out Swinging | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Good show to Cardinal Dolan.  The only way he could have improved it was to say that he was ashamed that any pro-life people were in the mobs shouting at scared women and children (just to be clear, wishing poor children ill is very anti-life - if legality is your thing then abortion is legal too) - and to really go over the top, if he is a Republican, to condemn them as well as a group.  The comments in disagreement were amazing.  It is sad how people cannot tell the difference between immoral and illegal - or that it is better to break the law when the law is an donkeys hind-end.  Also, kudos to the Maryland Catholic Conference, including Archbishop Lori - who could also do a little Republican condemning for effect.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sen. Rubio at CUA | National Catholic Reporter

Sen. Rubio at CUA | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I would not expect Rubio to offer proposals. That is not the job of a junior Senator of the minority party, even if he is testing the waters for President.  He has bought into the Kool-Aid that the people are buying his personality, not his future self (and, frankly, most of what a President does has nothing to do with his or her stated position - the job kind of throws itself at you - like the Ukraine crisis which was not on the horizon in 2008, or even 2012 or 2013).

Most issues are outside what a President can do.  Gay marriage is one of them.  With the exception of a few judicial activists on the right, no one a modern President appoints will vote to overturn Roe - not even Alito). Gay rights is another one of those. All of the federal courts which have looked at the issue have supported marriage equality.  Period. While a Republican president could reintroduce a constitutional amendment overturning it, it is unlikely to get much support - especially because the House Democratic Leader is from the Bay Area.  The only option is to support a call for a constitutional convention - although public opinion is shifting so fast on this issue I doubt that two-thirds of the state legislators will join the call (unless Citizens United is also on the menu - of course once it gets going, a lot of things could get on the menu, which is why state legislators never quite get a all complete).

The question is, how did the audience respond?  That is the most important thing in determining the success of this kind of meet and greet.  Was a web page announced so people could sign up to help online or to "connect'? or did somone take names and business cards?  (to be old fashioned).  That is how you know if these things did well.  If there was no such call for supporters, Rubio is a rank amateur raking in speakers fees.

As far as Obama, how he is doing depends on which echo chamber you are in.  MSW seems to be hanging with those who think Obama's term is all but over - which is almost never the case in year six of a presidency.  If the Democrats can win the House, which is possible depending on GOTV, then he will get much more done in the last two years than he did the middle four.  While those who exepct him to be a theologian might not like that, those of us who voted for him will.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Solution on HHS Mandate? | National Catholic Reporter

A Solution on HHS Mandate? | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: I'm sure that the White House thought that Hobby Lobby would lose on standing issues.  Once they did not, it was really to late to address this further.  As you may recall, the web site launch was in process.  I am quite sure religiously includined employers in closely held companies will simply be treated like religious employers on this matter.  I doubt any "objection notice" will be required - the insurance companies will simply provided coverage automatically when told that the particular policy won't include contraceptive coverage.  I am curious, of course, as to whether Hobby Lobby's existing policy covered contraception with a co-payment.  I know CCUSA did because we used it.  The ironic thing is that the solution essentially says that after all of these objections, no blasocysts have been or will be saved by the Fortnight for Freedom and all of its related lawsuits.

Kate Gordon on Border Crisis | National Catholic Reporter

Kate Gordon on Border Crisis | National Catholic Reporter by MSW. MGB: A heart wrenching story that is undoubtedly repeated every day, although now Honduran children are added to the mix.  Unlike the tragedy of Isaac, there is now a law to at least consider the cases of these children, as signed by President Bush.  Still, more is needed, although I can't see this Congress (either side) doing it.  Sadly, the Democratic Senate bill is so draconian already that it does not include much room to make things worse.  The better answer is to simply drop all restrictions and get rid of right to work laws.  That will have the effect of Food, Inc. no longer hiring undocumented workers - because it can't keep them as slaves in the shadows of work camps or company trailer parks.  Immigration for work will decrease, but it will increase for humanitarian reasons - which is not a bad idea either.

Partisanship & the Courts | National Catholic Reporter

Partisanship & the Courts | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: If it were not for Republican blackmail in the Senate - and the lack of DC Senators, there would likely be no Republicans on the DC Circuit and certainly not enough of a majority on any panel that could have let this decision fly.  It will surely be reconsidered and therefore not rise to review by the SCOTUS (unless a more Republican Circuit, say the 5th, considers the issue).  It may get to the Court if there is not enough controlling law for the Circuits to use as precident.  Sadly, this case would not even exist (nor any potential cases on abortion) if the Republicans in Congress could proceed along tradition - which the Federalists venerated over liberty and equality but the Tea Party seems to have forgotten.  Corrective language on this issue and others, such as what is to be done when one worker in the household has insurance but does not cover the other spouse, who has a job that won't and a personal income that can't afford it, even though the combined income disqualifies any subsidy.  The judicial system may handle relief on errors to language, but only congressional action can fix subsidies in a divided marriage. While there is hope that few main stream Republicans were beaten in primaries, neither was there a wide-spread purge of sitting Tea Party reactionaries.  I would not advise holding ones breath until there is a change in the GOP.  Hopefully the general electorate will offer us relief.

Religious Liberty Abroad: Where is Obama? | National Catholic Reporter

Religious Liberty Abroad: Where is Obama? | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Let me warn you that this Journal is a bit of a right wing, anti-Obama, rag which I will not be joining the e-mail list of any time soon.  I did not spend too much time on what is a highly technical article, rather, this is a more free form piece on the need to have that post at all.  It is in the spirit of Jonathan Swift, except that none of my questions are satyrical.

Appointing a religious freedom ambassador is dicey for a mostly Christian nation with enlightenment roots (while God is mentioned in the founding documents, Jesus is not).  Would not such an ambassador have to stand up for the rights of the Muslim Brotherhood against the militarty and those in Egyptian society of a more, need I say it, Englightenment view?  Or are we only defending the rights of englightened Muslims who reciprocate by respecting the righs of Christians? Would a religious liberty Ambassador stand up for Gays being persecuted in Russia or the rights of the Patriarch of Moscow to initiate such a persecution?  What about the rights of the C Street Family to offer policy in Uganda to execute, or at least persecute, homosexuals?  Would the Ambassador stand for the freedom of the Oranges in Ulster to have marching season go forth as planned?  Or the rights of the IRA to bomb them? What about women is Saudi Arabia?  Do the Wahabi leaders deserve the religious support to keep them under the patriarchy?  One would think North Korea would be an easy case, but if the veneration of the Kim family is almost, if not entirely, religious (akin to Japanese Shintoism), should they have the right to persecute Christian interlopers - as Hobby Lobby has the right to not pay for contraception?  As you can guess, the answer is no.

We need to make sure that Americans are protected if they get into trouble, but even then, Christianity started as a religion of martyrs.  If our martyrs rely on CNN and the United States to not give their lives in witness to Christ, then maybe certain Wahabi are right, that Christians are really not longer able to witness for Christ with their lives.  If some people are expecting the Rapture at any moment - what sense is it to die for the Lord?  I suspect from reading my copy of Revelation that most, if not all, modern Christians will be subjected to that long period of trial and martyrdom if this really is the end times.  The Jews and Romany may be raptured, but the rest of y'all will have demonstrate your allegience to the Lord in ways a bit more uncomforatable than shouting down immigrant children (like that's not a mortal sin), gays, women and the President.

MSW on Marsden | National Catholic Reporter

MSW on Marsden | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: An interesting review of what is likely an interesting book.  Book reviews, of course, are dangerous because for some it is an invitiation to buy the book and for the rest it gives us enough information not to but to talk about it anyway.  That part of the Enlightenment - Encyclopedias, Journals and Cliff Notes lives on.  Indeed, every generation of political scientists, sociologists, historians and those who simply take those courses as an elective are exposed to the Enlightenment and will take from it what they find useful - especially if they study Grid Group Theory - which puts all political, social, economic and religious thought into perspective.  Indeed, the birth of sixties radicalism came in the fifties.  While some Evangelicals think of the Fifties as a Golden Age, I suspect that even outside of campuses, the roots of the Sixties were part of the Fifties.  Conservatives might have liked Ike, but Ike like the Autobahn - and when it was done the mobility of the Sixties were possible, as well as an expansion of the federal financial system that made Medicare and the Great Society possible.  FDR had a long run and he changed everything and Ike did not change it back.  Sadly Reagan tried is best in the 80s, but even those changes will not be permanent.  When Marxism was under attack under Senator McCarthy, his self-congratulatory witch hunts forever ended the chance of another Red Scare and made campus radicalism possible. More, not less, is possible on that front as we Occupy America.  As for Culture, let us not forget what was originally called "race music" and shortly became the dominant cultural form for self expression that we of a certain age call Rock and Roll.   Do I need to even mention that teens and collegiates really were having sex in the 50s?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

USCCB response to LGBT nondiscrimination order worse than expected | National Catholic Reporter

USCCB response to LGBT nondiscrimination order worse than expected | National Catholic Reporter by MSW.  MGB: Let us be clear that this is not from the USCCB as a whole.  As far as we know, there was no national call-in or e-mail vote on this position.  It is the work of two staff and two bishops and I suspect the RNC was contacted before anyone else in the Church was involved.  MSW deals well with the culture was issues these bishops seem to be dealing with, so let me hit some additional points having to do with the press release.  The release first opposes executive power over the bureaucracy.  This is simply ignorant.  They talk of opposing this order, but it is in final form.  While they can, of course, challenge any adverse actions against Church agencies or institutions, there is no place for a general challenge.  The USCCB has no contracts with the Federal Government, so they have no standing.

As I mentioned yesterday, most Catholic organizations are in compliance with this order, including not raising a stink when a gay staff member gets married.  I suspect that usually there is a gift involved.  While Fr. Larry of CCUSA is the servant of diocesan Catholic Charities organizations, he has no policy control over them. Still, knowing many of the directors, they are not likely to go on a witch hunt for either closeted or openy gay employees - and this bridge was crossed by Catholic hospitals long age.  Schools may be a problem, but they get little in federal money aside from grants from the U.S. Department of Education.  This will most likely affect grants not given or even not applied for and if there is a problem, the Order may be modified to deal with it before a law suit can be filed.  Even if it is, it would be a suit under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (which can also be repealed), rather than the First Amendment.  It is as likely that by the time any case would get to the SCOTUS, there will be a Democratic Congress and White House - a more liberal one than the last time, and ENDA will pass, with amendments to RFRA, cutting any suit off at the knees.

On the Church's central comment about the order not distinguishing between sexual attraction and sexual conduct is a head scratcher unless they want government employers to be come the sex police.  Some suggest this may be about the eventual nationalization of marriage equality and the right to deny benefits to gay spouses.  This is totally indefensible, because Church employers have, to date, not denied benefits to heterosexual employees married civilly - marriages that the law recongnizes by the law but doctrine does not.  This is about bigotry, pure and simple.  Of coruse, the other possibility is that they are making this distictinction to allow gay clergy to be counted as not discriminated against while they continue to reserve the rigth (which they don't use) to discriminate against gay laity.

The last bit is about transgendered employees and bathrooms.  It is hardly enough of a reason to oppose the Executive Order.  Such matters are usually worked out with those using the bathrooms in question, not by a lawsuit by the bishops against the White House.