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.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jesus, Zarthons and Gays

Last summer, I was doing a show on BlogTalkRadio.com and proposed that Paul and Jesus did not have all the facts about homosexuality in their era. Let me amplify my point now.

Jesus, when he was alived, was true man. He had no special link to the Omniscience of God. He and Paul would not have known that gays were born and not recruited.

Let me introduce a hypothetical to illustrate this. Consider this an alternative history.

Assume, if you will, that in the year 29 there was a comet heading toward the earth - the kind that wiped out the Dinosaurs. Also assume that there was an alien pressence on the planet - the Zarthons. Assume that they had technology and materials that might be usable in deflecting the comet with lasers, but they just did not know quite how to do it. Zarthon agents were in all corners of the planet, including Palestine and one had heard Jesus speak and was convinced he was the promised Son of God.

Assume away miraculous intervention - which Jesus would likely accomplish by praying to His Father to deflect the comet. We are examining the human capabilities of Jesus in this exercise, not his great faith (which is also part of his human nature).

Would Jesus be able, without study, to use Zarthon technology to deflect the comet?

Interesting question, eh? It goes to the heart of who Jesus really was - or who we think he was.

In my opinion, Jesus would not have been able to whip together a solution without study. Give a few years of tutoring on Zarthon technology, he might well have been able to do something - although it would not have been something he could pull out of thin air. He had probably the best ability to learn things - however he would not have the knowledge.

In the same way, he did not know what we know now about the origins and nature of homosexuality. Yes they had gays in his day, including the kind we have now (although most of these had wives who were property). He never explicity condemned them, by the way. He condemned pederastry - which is a form of slavery and is different.

My point is, because we understand homosexuality differently than was possible two thousand years ago, we can in good conscience come up with different views and still be Christian. In my opinion, we actually have to change how we treat gays and lesbians if we still wish to be worthy of the name. Face it, Jesus would have voted no on Proposition 8 had he been a California voter.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Postmortem

There is quite a lot to talk about today. Before we start THAT ONE WON! WHOOPEE!

First, there is the historic significance of Barack Obama's election. Second, allow me to speculate on the transition. Third, there is the future of the Republican Party and the Pro-life movement and finally there is California Question 8, which annulled thousands of gay marriages. Much of this is a retread of prior columns on some of my web pages, however, most of this has not been seen here or together.

As to the historic nature of the Obama election. When inauguration time comes, what you won't be hearing is the phrase "descended from African slaves." As coverage of his father's home villiage in Kenya shows, he is a first generation American (on his father's side) from Africa. He has adopted the culture of the descendents of slaves, as he has also adopted midwestern culture (I also resemble that remark from everything after the word also - as my father was an Iowan, ) His value is, therefore, as a symbol rather than as a fellow striver as he did not experience the racism in the bad old days. Speaking as a civil rights advocate in the DC Statehood movement, I hope that he will add some substance to the symbolism by dealing honestly with the District of Columbia - not by endorsing or signing voting rights, but by both working for statehood and by (at last) appointing an Administrator for the National Capital Service Area. This was required in 1974 under the Home Rule Act but it never happened so as to avoid any talk of consolidating federal police forces and arranging to compensate the District for services rendered to the NCSA. More than signing the Freedom of Choice Act (which would be a slap in the face to his Catholic supporters, in the unlikely event it passed, doing something for the District would be a good symbolic first act.

That is just one aspect of the transition. The second is Rahm Emmanuel, his pick for chief of staff. My bet is that the Congressman will be the junior Senator from the State of Illinois on January 20 of next year, although he would be an asset to the Obama Administration. Another aspect of the transition is tax policy. Much work has been done over the last four years on the topic of Tax Reform. One of the most promising proposals is a Value Added Tax with a simplified high income personal income tax. Michael Graetz has a well expalined proposal in this area. A variation on this is to transfer the responsibllity for non-retirement payroll taxes to the employer and to remove the deductibility of wages and salaries from business income taxes, allowing for a lowering of rates and the transfering of employee deductions for health care, childcare, the child tax credit and any VAT prebate and Earned Income Tax Credit for retirement payroll taxes still extant. If tax increases are necessary to stabilize the Medicare trust fund and fund health insurance reform, the expanded Business Income Tax (which would also be filed by sole proprietors and partnerships) would be the natural vehicle. To make such enhanced funding more palatable to conservatives and libertarians, provision of private insurance up to the state average could be credited against these taxes.

The Republican Party and the Pro-life movement have pretty much shot themselves in the foot. The Rove contingent in the Bush campaign got McCain and Palin to go ugly. If the GOP brand name wasn't bad enough under Bush, it got even worse after this campaign. Meanwhile, certain Catholic bishops who are involved in the pro-life movement overplayed their hands in denouncing Barack Obama's position on abortion rights. If the movement were smart, it would abandon its electoral connection with the Republican Party and work with the new Administration to legally protect late term fetuses by recognizing them by federal law (which the soverign legislature - Congress - can do under both its original powers and its power to enforce the 14th Amendment.)

The movement will need to do some inside work to work toward this point. National Right to Life should figure out what protecting human life really means in terms of the law. It will find that most of its members like the concept of protecting the unborn, but would be quite unwilling to give first trimester fetuses or their heirs access to the courthouse for medical malpractice or retribution for their deaths - or even coverage by life insurance policies. An equally protected fetus could not be protected at a level less than that of a born infant, which means that if the mother ordered the abortion, she is as culpable as the doctor and that once a fetus is recognized as a person, there is no keeping the trial lawyers and prosecutors out of the picture due to its newly acquired rights to equal protection under the law. These interests must also be weighted against the general health of women - as protecting children too early would mean the death of the practice of obstetrics before the 24th week, which would also harm children. It is time to end the emotionalism in the pro-life movement and take a look at the cold hard options. If they don't do this, their membership will more and more see through their apparent opportunism - promising much but delivering nothing but money to fund National Right to Life and money and voters to the Republican Party.

Finally, reports are already coming in of lawsuits to reverse Proposition 8. I thought these would have resulted when Virginia passed its anti-marriage/anti-contractual relationship amendment - but legal remedies depend on direct injury - and if no one challenges the contracts of their gay loved ones, no remedy is needed. Victory in California may be short-lived for the homophobes, as gay couples can use the Scalia dissent in the Texas Sodomy case to justify their equal protection rights to marriage - since he positied that if sodomy were not illegal there were no legal grounds to deny full marital rights. If California were smart, they will quit after the first loss in federal court. If it goes to the Ninth Circuit, they will surely lose. If they appeal to the Supreme Court, it will be the end of all state marriage bans. I doubt they are smart enough to see that, since they are delusionable about the justice of their cause - that is unless they wish to generate a backlash resulting in Constitutional Amendement at the federal level. However, given the current composition of the Congress, there will be no such Amendment. If the election results show anything, it is that the new American majority is tolerant of gay marriage. As time goes on, this toleration will increase. This just goes to prove that some people exist as an example of what not to do.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Slavery and Abortion

The pro-life movement likes to think of themselves as modern day abolitionists. They equate abortion with slavery and put "choice" in those terms. I will leave it to the reader to Google choice and slavery to verify this.

Some of these individuals are no doubt sincere, however in many ways they are just plain wrong. Slavery poisoned the entire social structure of the South in ways that are still apparent today in certain backwaters (like the Florida panhandle and rural Georgia). Violence against those who would denounce slavery in the South was common, much the same way the descendents of slaveholders bomb abortion clinics and target providers.

Many in the pro-life movement think of slavery as an issue that was settled in 1865, which it was not. It took the passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments and the pressence of federal troops to keep it at bay - and it was not kept away for long. Southern justice kept African-American slavery alive in the form of convict labor alive until the dawn of the Second World War. It has since resurfaced with the rise of private prisons, convict labor and the War on Drugs. In some pockets of the South, peonage also still exists.

Guess which political party is the loudest champion of underfunding the wage and hour division and the War on Drugs, which is also used to disenfrachise African American voters?

Their reading of history is wrong as well. Abolition went hand in hand with the struggle for emancipation for women, including their rights to vote, own property, obtain a divorce and use birth control. Indeed, given the majority of their positions, the original abolitionists would disown the pro-life movement. I doubt that Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony would not be highly offended by any association between their movement and the National Right to Life agenda.

The Importance of the Abortion Question

We hear from certain prelates in the Catholic Church that Abortion, as a life issue, is the most important question. Philisophically, this may be the case. From a practical standpoint, however, nothing could be further from the truth.

I am not saying for a second that we should make our ethics depend on practicality. What I am saying is that there is not much that can be done on the issue by the next President, at least if he or she holds to the Pro-Life legislative agenda. For all that I can divine from what they have written, their goal is to restore the pre-Roe status quo. This is pathetic, as this implies that they would be happy to give the states the right to impose a fine on abortionists.

Looking at the issue this way, it can hardly be considered as the most important queston before the electorate. It also does not justify the collateral damage to equal protection law which would occur if Roe were overturned in a way to make it a state affair. All civil rights law would be upset by such a precedent - which may be what the conservatives have in mind anyway (particulary in the areas of marriage, immigrant rights to services and even protections of racial minorities). This would be an evil means to a good intent and cannot be supported.

The reason the Court in Roe considered abortion as an issue that can be governed under the privacy precedents of Griswold v. Connecticut, which stated that birth control was a private matter, was the lack of legal status given to the unborn under Roe and the lack of any real penalty for abortion. If the penalty had been equal to manslaughter, they might have looked at the situation differently. However, the penalties were designed not to stop abortion, but to force women into back alley abortions or self-induced abortions, or to travel to other states or countries in order to obtain one. This is hardly a goal that lives up to the rhetoric of the pro-life movement - the protection of innocent life under law.

The real question is not whether life is predominant, but the method by which pre-born life is protected. This can only be done under Roe by granting legal recognition to the unborn at some point during the pregnancy. Congress has the power to do this, while state legislatures do not. This is clear under the 14th Amendment. The Democrats are willing to have this discussion. In the last debate, Barack Obama stated he would protect all late term pregnancies (provided there was a health exception). The Pro-Lifers likely won't go along with this, since it would take much of the heat out of their argument. Late term abortions give them the shock value they need to keep their voter and contributor base radicalized. Compromise does not.

As to the health exception, this does not endow doctors with any more power than they already have in dealing with the separation of conjoined twins or the decision on whether to suspend artificial life support or CPR. We pay them to do this.

As to the protection of early pregnancies, legal recognition has its own set of problems. Society has never granted such recognition this early. Doing so makes every pregnancy and miscarriage a public event. Some say I am an alarmist to say this, but that is because they have not yet thought through the implications of their position. Obtaining pre-natal care or treatment of a miscarriage would be more difficult to get as OBs become wary of lawsuits for not making sure the fetus lived (even when it is genetically defective and should miscarry naturally) and as OBs become wary of Regent Law School graduated prosectors going throught their patient records trying to find abortions - real possibilities if the fetus is a citizen.

A better way to protect innocent life is to make children affordable, both by enacting a living wage supported by $500 per month tax credits for each dependent and by removing the responsibility to pay for college from parents. Of course, the pro-life movement will call you a Socialist if you propose such things. Another reason to vote against whoever they recommend.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obama Haters

Is Barack a Muslim? Was he born outside the country? Is he a Marxist who consorts with terrorists?

I believe these are all coded questions. When I hear these rumors passed, I hear something different. I hear the phrase "I will never vote for that N*****!" Of course, the fact that they have to speak in code and won't actually say it in polite company means they have lost.

Victory dance all over your white sheets!

Election Day Surprises

C-SPAN was asking about surprises on election day. Even some Obama supporters were chiming in saying they think the voting may be rigged, while GOPeons are toting the party line saying that McCain may pull it out at the last minute.

I no more believe that the election will be stolen than I believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim born outside the US. All of these things are urban legend.

If there is a surprise, it will be how badly the down-ticket Republicans do. There may hardly be a Republican Party after November 4th. John McCain is kidding himself if he thinks that an underdog undercurrent will save him from electoral infamy. I suspect that the reverse is true. Republicans in their heart know they will lose and will stay home. If there is any surprise, it will be Texas voting for Obama.