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.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Gay Marriage and the Virginia Catholic Conference - Latest News

Yesterday, the parishes distributed the glossy from the Virginia Catholic Conference on the Virginia Gay Marriage Amendment. This fact was duly noted in the Washington Post. Given the bishops involved, I am not at all surprised at the content of their guide. They seem to be buying into the authoritarianism of the evangelical right wing. Politics does indeed make for strange bedfellows.

Much of the pastoral goes to how marriage is an essential institution. If one goes beyond the mythological nature of the story of Adam and Eve, which was itself a teaching tool rather than a rendition of history, one can see how the basic truths recited in the first few paragraphs of the Bishops letter can actually be used as a defense of Gay Marriage, since the marriage covenant is intrinsic to the human condition - regardless of sexual orientation.

Officially, the Church at large believes in civil rights for everyone. For instance, discrimination in employment and housing is not supposed to be allowed and is in fact a sin. I fear the bishops are moving away from even that basic level of decency.

As everyone knows, the Virginia amendment seeks to constitutionalize both the gay marriage ban and a rather miserable law designed to ban most domestic partner benefits, including those that have nothing to do with sex, like medical decisionmaking and joint property ownership. I guess intelligence and enlightenment are related, since anyone with a brain knows that state interference with these rights is a violation of the federal constitution (passing laws to overturn valid contracts is strictly verboten). Irregardless of any new marital rights for gays, the ban being considered in Virginia will fall on those grounds. Of course, this may be a safety valve to have what is a doomed amendment on equal protection grounds fall without actually granting a constitutional right to marry, so the sponsors might actually not be so stupid, although my guess is that the Court will rule on the equal protection issues as well as the contract issues.

As I have said before, celebrating gay unions is actually in the interest of the Catholic Church. To do so is to say that promiscuity is as evil for gays as it is for straights. Equating married gay sex and promiscuous gay sex is like telling gays to go hog wild and by the way, we hope you die. Luckily, marriage is the natural state of any couple, so it is written in the hearts of gays and lesbians as it is in others as well. You would think a Church that prides itself on the study of natural law would figure that one out. Of course, the Church's approach to discovering natural law is flawed, as the election guide shows. The Church claims to teach natural law authoritiatively. The problem is that natural law is based entirely on reason. Once you bring in authority, you are no longer teaching natural law because you are relying on something besides reason. The bishops contend that God would be disappointed with a vote against the amendment. This is silly. If anything, God is disappointed with the amendment itself, for the reasons I have set forth. Of course, God does not get disappointed. God is happiness itself. We do not have the power to make God less than happy. To contend otherwise is huberis. Morality does not exist to make God happy, but to make man happy on earth. Denying gays and lesbians the right to marry is hardly spreading happiness. Neither is discouraging discrimination.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cynical Conservatives

In today's Washington Post, conservative leaders are reportedly energized by yesterday's decision on gay marriage in New Jersey.

The New Jersey court decision that gay couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples was bad news for social conservatives -- the bad news they were hoping for. Pro-traditional-marriage organizations ought to give a distinguished service award to the New Jersey Supreme Court," said the Rev. Richard Land, head of the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention. Land and other conservative religious leaders predicted that the court's 4 to 3 ruling, which was handed down Wednesday, would boost turnout of social conservatives in the midterm elections, particularly in the eight states that have constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage on the Nov. 7 ballot.

This speaks volumes as to how cynical these people are. Any movement whose goal is merely to keep their supporters angry enough to vote is just plain pathetic, meaning it elicits pity from those of us who are not fooled. Sad. The same people in the Catholic Church who were poo-pooing What's the Matter with Kansas should take note of the people they are getting in bed with.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

George Who? REDUX

In July 25th's Washington Post, E.J. Dionne points out a trend in Republican candidates for reelection, where they are stressing Pork, Not Party in their campaign ads. Its almost as if you were to ask them about their President and they were to respond, George who? The right wing bloggers have been and will be quick to accuse the left of hypocrisy, however they cannot run from the fact that their own people are distancing themselves from a damaged president, or that running on pork underlies the TOTAL LACK OF FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY evidenced by this regime.

Dionne starts his essay describing an exchange between Jim Webb and incumbent porker George Allen in last month's Virginia senatorial debate. The Senator asked his much more worthy opponent if he knew about about Craney Island. If I were him, I would not be so smug about busting the budget. Of course, for George Allen, bringing financial ruin is par for the course. As Governor, he laid the groundwork for the fiscal mess which Jim Gilmore created and Mark Warner brought under control. Is anyone in Virginia really surprised that he would revert to his big spending ways?

UPDATE: Last night, Jim Webb returned the favor and asked Senator Allen about the Senkaku Islands off the coast of Taiwan. Allen did not know. Considering the fact that Allen and is crowd is mortgaging our future to China, who may start a war over those same islands, this is not a good sign of Georgey's abilities.

Values Choices for the Parties

Eugene Robinson writes today about the quandry the Republicans are in over the Foley scandal and how it is revealing the pressence of "gasp" gays and lesbians in their membership and on their staffs. He wonders if the Republicans can explain the reality of the situation to their conservative voters or abandon what could be a teaching moment in favor of a gay purge.

One could get the impression that all Christians are conservatives. That is not the case. There is a Christian Left, some of whom are politically liberal and others who are doctrinally so and who might even be politically moderate, since they are definitely to the right of the secular left.

As much at fault has been the Democratic Party's recent predeliction for secularism (even though in reality the Reagans were secularists and the Clintons weekly attenders at services). Even looking at conventions, one must note that gospel choirs and singers are as apt to entertain at the Democratic Convention as the Republican. Of course, beyond the facade, the noisiest of activists in the Democratic Party are secularists. Perhaps it is time for the secular left to share the microphone with the rest of us.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Don't Do Me Any Favors, Senator Allen

The Washington Post, in preparation for tonight's debate, gives us a view of Senator George Allen's recent campaign ads.

Allen has begun focusing on taxes with an advertisement that accuses Webb of wanting to raise taxes by $2,000 for the average Virginia family. It also attempts to link Webb with liberal Democratic lawmakers who are perceived to be opposed to recent federal tax cuts.

"Webb would bring back the death tax, marriage penalty tax and cut the child tax credit from $1,000 to $500," the ad states.

First off, he is just plain wrong. As the campaign has already stated, Secretary Webb favors such items as marriage penalty relief and the child tax credit (which the Democrats forced on the GOP in order to allow enactment of the original Bush cuts). Ignoring the lying, I will address the Republican propensity for giving tax cuts to the wealthy and the upper middle class.

Don't do me any favors, Senator. Senator Allen, you obviously do not understand government finance (although anyone with a memory who lives in Virginia knows that, since your ineptitude sewed the seeds for the fiscally disasterous Gilmore administration). While the economy may be rebounding under the Bush tax cuts, it is doing so because of a very Keynsian debt. We are, in essence, borrowing money from the wealthy and the Chinese in order to finance current spending on the disasterous war in Iraq and the Pentagon's latest spending spree.

Now George, pay attention, you may learn something.

The taxpayers of the United States owe a lot of money to a lot of people - largely because of the War and the President's tax cuts. This indebtedness is possible because the debt is financed by the federal government's ability to tax higher income individuals and to seize the assets of those who refuse to pay - just ask Willie Nelson about this. The old canard about every man, woman and child owing a piece of the national debt is just that, a canard. In reality, any individual can figure their liability for the debt by taking their annual tax liability and multiplying it by 8.6. (The total debt/total income taxes). This will give each taxpayer an estimate of how much they owe the Chinese, the rich and the future retirees who will want payment from those bonds held by the Social Security Trust fund. Of course, it does get a bit worse. The IMF/World Bank is ultimately backed by the ability of the American Government to tax, so all that bad foreign debt is potentially on the American taxpayer too. Not a pretty sight.

Now, I am by no means wealthy, so the impact on my family of the debt is not very much. I was once a federal government employee (although I am not now since I will not work for George W. Bush as a civil servant - he is destoying much of the government through his ideological agenda - but that is another topic). When I do go back to work for the feds, hopefully some time in 2009, I will make a pretty penny and when I do my liability for the debt will vastly increase.

My main point is that cutting taxes hurts the wealthy in the long term.

When the Republicans cut taxes on the wealthy, they shifted the percentage of the federal debt burden more toward the middle class - although by throwing the budget out of balance they increased the total burden for everyone, especially the wealthy, since in a few short years the Bush tax cuts evaporate and any serious effort to balance the budget must include revenue from this economic strata - increasing anyone else's taxes will cut consumption enough to throw the economy into a tail spin.

The reason the tax cuts evaporate is another reason why the Republicans need to be thrown out. Instead of working out a deal that would be acceptable to the Democratic caucus to make permanent changes, the Republicans used reconciliation to enact temporary cuts. This unwillingness to play nice with the other side has lead to a large balloon payment in tax liability. This crowd would rather have their way than actually get something done that lasts and for that every last one of them deserves defeat, especially you, Senator Allen. It would be better for our wealthiest taxpayers to pay down the debt responsibly, including the debt held by Social Security. Then we can talk about permanent tax cuts. Thanks to you and your crowd, Senator, that day will not come anytime soon - although we can start the progress toward it in a bit over four weeks time with your defeat.

Monday, October 02, 2006

What Hastert Knew (and What About Davis?)

Sunday's Post seems to confirm what I said yesterday, that Hastert seems to have known. His constituents and those of Mr. Boehner have a choice to make about their priorities: pages or the party.

Tom Davis is in the leadership. The great unanswered question is, did he know anything about this affair?