This blog started out as a collection of scripts for an online radio show of the same name. It riffed off of my 2004 book, Musings from the Christian Left, now republished as The Conscience of a Catholic Radical.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Partisanship Over Page Protection: Time to Vote Out Boehner and Hastert

Charles Babington and Jonathan Wiseman report on the Foley resignation in todays Washington Post. Most disturbingly, they report that

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told The Washington Post last night that he had learned this spring of inappropriate "contact" between Foley and a
16-year-old page. Boehner said he then told House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

In other words, keeping a majority seems more important to the House leadership than disciplining a member who is endangering young Pages. The people of Leader Boehner's and Speaker Hastert's districts need to ask themselves if they believe the same thing. If they do, they should return Mr. Hastert and Mr. Boehner to Congress, they are saying that partisanship is more important to them as well. If these men had any decency, they would resign now and not force their constituents into such a choice. Given how they have run the House the last several years, I do not expect it.

It is time for their constituents to send the message that they put decency over partisanship.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Little Georgey Allen's Attack Ads

The junior Senator from Virginia has unleashed his right-wing attack machine on his much more worth opponent, former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb. This series of ads picks apart Jim's record as Secretary of the Navy, putting a negative spin on official decisions that were most likely staff driven. If Mr. Allen had done any oversight in his time as Senator, he would know that much of what a service secretary does is speak for the department under his command. Political appointees make many decisions, although these are bounded by law, regulation and administration policy. Occassionally they get a few calls wrong. By and large, according to the boss (I served as an Air Force civil servant during the same period), Jim did a good job.

This is more than we can say for Junior. He is part of a Republican Senate that has done nothing while Iraq has burned. They have held no oversight as contractors have looted the public treasury. They know it, and they know that we know it. That is why they are going negative.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Another Christian Left Voice

The Washington Post reports on Evangelical author and pastor, Brain D. McLaren. It is amazing how many of us there are out there who have been laboring (and submitting to the Post) quite regularly without notice. Perhaps now they are noticing. I am tempted to set up a Christian left web ring.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Messing with Constitutions

Writing in the September 5th Washington Post, 4th Circuit Judge Harvie Wilkinson, III makes an excellent case for refraining from constitutional amendments on Gay Marriage at the state (especially Virginia) and federal levels. However, the judge, in trying to be rational with the proponents misses a few obvious facts.

The first one is that, as John Dean showed in Conservatives Without Conscience, the people proposing these amendments are not doing so out of rationality but out of authoritarianism. They believe (albeit wrongly) that God does not want gays to be married (as if He would rather they be promiscuous). If the religious right were rational, they would see that Truth is on the side of Gay Marriage - both so our gay bretheran can be reached with the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ and because, to a large extent, the witness of Love gays show eachother in hardship shows that they already have. They ignore the Apostle Paul's injunction to be all things to all men, even the gay ones (and lesbians too).

The second point he is ignoring is that the state amendments are proposed to rally the base. They are a political ploy so the right wing looks like it is doing something while they are despoiling the country. He also knows, although he cannot say (because it would prejudice the matter which will come before his Court) that these amendments will be challenged on equal protection grounds - although he alludes to prefering that the judicial branch not be involved - even though the equal protection case is clear once sodomy laws are a violation of privacy - as te Scalia dissent prophesies. As such, this effort and especially the federal effort are dress rehearsals for an amendment as backlash to Supreme Court decisions that are likely inevitable on gays in the military and gay marriage. In such a circumstance, if the Congress does not act, the states will call for a convention (and Lord help us if that crowd gets a convention organized on its agenda).

I was going to say that possibly the right wing is doing what others have speculated by stirring up passions among their base even though they know that the Courts will not back their agenda - that making this base angry serves some perverse authoritarian function by convincing their rank and file that the federal judiciary is their enemy and that they can only trust their pastors. I could even speculate that they want to actually discourage the rule of law and breed extremists like Eric Rudolph (who attacked gay night clubs as well as abortion clinics). I was going to say that until my conclusion in point two. I think WHAT THEY REALLY WANT IS A CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION TO HIT ALL OF THEIR ISSUES AT ONCE. They want to recriminalize sodomy, enact a flat tax, ban abortion, ban flag burning, ban pornography, overturn federal intervention in voting and civil rights and display religious symbols and maybe even declare Jesus Christ the personal savior of the United States. You can almost see it by how they talk about activist judges. I don't think this is just some electoral strategy, I forsee the possiblity of long term violence to what they see as secularism (which is also known as the rule of law). I hope I am wrong, but I doubt it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Gay Marriage and Activist Judges in Virginia

In July 24th's Washington Post, Andrew Cohen examines how two state Supreme Courts used the same fact and came to two very differenct conclusions in Same Coast, Different Worlds on Same Sex Marriage. Cohen is reviewing a book by Justin Rosen, which advises courts to wait for the public and legislature to catch up before granting rights to oppressed groups where they had been denied by the majority (my take, not his).

The proposed amendment to the Virginia Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman is on the ballot. The Republicans are attempting to prevent "activist judges" from extending marital rights to gay couples under the doctrine of equal protection. This is not a new thing for Virginia, who vigorously enforced a law banning interracial marriage until the United States Supreme Court overturned it in Loving v. Virginia. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

What the conservatives really fear, however, is a federal action extending marital rights to gays and lesbians, so in a way this amendment is whistling past the grave yard. In fact, similar recent state constitutional amendments are already under challenge in federal court, so the amendment may never make it to the voters.

Conservatives believe that it is improper for activist judges to overturn the will of majorities. However, the gist of the equal protection doctrine calls precisely for the judicial branch to check the will of majorities by protecting minority rights. Remember, the Bill of Rights was not passed as an expression of a majority, but as a condition for the ratification of the federal constitution. The Federalists did not believe a Bill of Rights was needed, just as their Republican heirs do not believe that an equal protection doctrine is needed. Polling data on the electorate indicates that if the provisions of the Bill of Rights were put to a vote they would fail (except possibly the Second Amendment).

The resentment against activist federal judges goes back even farther than the Fourteenth Amendment, which is the vehicle used to overturn state laws which persecute minorities. This debate emerged in the debate over nullification, whereby states rights advocates argued that states governments could nullify federal acts it did not agree with in their own states, particularly with regard to slavery. Now, Article IV of the U.S. Constitution is quite clear that the federal constitution and laws were the supreme law of the land, so the argument never held water. The question was finally settled at Appotomax, Virginia with the surrender of General Robert E. Lee to General Grant. The Fourteenth Amendment simply codified it. While there was a brief conservative counter-revolution under the Wilsonian Democrats, right has always been on the side of equal protection. Just as it is now.

Going back to the question of marriage, which I address in more detail on my web page at, I was taught in both Catholic High School and in marriage preparation that God made marriage a sacrament and it was between the two individuals getting married, with the minister and the state merely providing witness. It is a pity that the Commonwealth of Virginia is still in the nasty habit of arguing with God.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Attacking Inequality

In Labor Day's Washington Post, Sebastian Mallaby presents an excellent analysis which concludes that tax reform may be the best way to attack inequality.

We in the Christian Left agree with everything he says, or almost everything. Unionization and an increase in the mimimum wage are necessary parts of the equation and must be done at the same time so that when the minumum wage goes up working conditions, such as air conditioning do not deteriorate. More about this later.

There is only one fly in the ointment - getting the changes he advises done. The political leadership of both parties like rich people. Rich people give them money. The centrist tax reform solutions which we also agree with will be resisted by anyone who sends their legislator a big check, which is why if you are serious about tax reform you must look to campaign finance reform first. We will do that. Our tax reform will also be more attractive to working people, because we have proposed and will end the responsibilty of filing by all but business owners and the wealthiest tax payers. We will also bring together the anti-abortion vote and the living wage vote by increasing the credit for children to an adequate level for a middle class existence. This will allow an end to welfare programs for all but the illiterate, who would be paid to achieve literacy. Shifting tax benefits to families and tax filing to employers leaves open a loophole that must be filled, since employers may potentially shift their entire payroll cost to this tax credit. In order to avoid this, the minimum wage subject to what would amount to a value added tax would be raised to at least $20,000.00 per year.

Going back to unionization, there is one circumstance where it will not drive jobs offshore - if unions invest their pension funds in the firms where their employer work - especially the multi-national employers or employers with significant off-shore supply chains. Gaining control of these firms will allow for unions to benefit from the Wal-Mart effect in reverse. Rather than demanding a non-union shop, union owned firms will demand that their supply chains be unionized and that a living wage be paid to overseas workers. Further, they will use transfer pricing schemes to assure this happens. If unions wish to survive and have firms that thrive, they will change the way they do business as well as how the firms they own do business and pay their employees. they will als change their longstanding fear of Social Security reform. Mallaby states that tax reform can be used to lower payroll taxes. This is one possible scenario. Another is to meld the payroll taxes for non-retired survivors, disability insurance and Medicare into the business income tax as part of tax reform (lowering net but not gross wages accordingly) and by directing at least a portion of the retirement portion (possibly the employer contribution) to acquiring shares in the employer which would be voted by the union or professional association. Diversivification is important, but this can be accomplished by a joint insurance fund whereby each such firm donates share of its employee or union owned equity each year so that, unless all such funds fail at once, no retiree or employee looses everything in a business failure. This is also a cheaper alternative than a mutual fund, as fund administration is done at the group rather than individual level.

Doing all of these things will truly attack inequality, although it can all start with tax reform.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

See my links

See the links to the right. They include my home pages and my other blogs, as well as the Progressive Christian and Rudicus Report blogs, who are partners with this site in the Proud Liberals web ring site, Burn the Liberals.

The Iowa Center for Fiscal Equity blog and home page contain economic commentary - both on public finance, government reform and corporate governance.

The Christian Libertarian Party blog is the discussion for forming a new center left political party.

The International Space Consortium is developing just that.