Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Banks Win, Homeowners Lose

I haven’t been a fan of every part of Pres. Obama’s economic policies, but I was a big fan of his plan to stop the mortgage crisis.  One part of this plan was urging Congress to change bankruptcy laws to allow bankruptcy judges to “cramdown” and renegotiate mortgages.  This is already done with second homes, but is illegal for primary residences. This common sense reform would keep thousands of people out of foreclosure.  It would stop the bleeding in the mortgage industry which was one of the first dominoes to fall in the recession.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) has led the battle in the Senate for the bankruptcy reform.  Yesterday, he expressed his frustration saying of Congress, “the banks own this place.”  Today, he was proven right.  The Senate, including 12 Democrats, sided with the banks over homeowners.  This is extremely discouraging because it shows that big money is so corrupting that progressive reform is difficult. It would be impossible to replace 12 bank-over-homeowners Democrats with 12 pro-cramdown Democrats in 2010–and ZERO Republican senators voted for reform.

By contrast, during the Great Depression, the federal government guaranteed home mortgages directly–and every dime was repaid with 90% of homes saved.

Thanks, Congress for making economic recovery harder and loving banks (whom we taxpayers are saving) over ordinary Americans.

This is why electoral politics must be supplemented with street protests and other forms of movement politics.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | economic justice | 12 Comments

Will Bush Torture Policies Hurt U.S. Military?

Brandon Friedman, Vice Chair of VoteVets.org, makes the argument that the torture policies of the Bush administration, even if never repeated, will harm the U.S. military for generations.  Now, as a former soldier turned Christian pacifist, I have complex loyalties here.  I’m hardly a promoter of any military, but I don’t want to see anyone put in greater danger, so I read on.  In brief, Friedman argues that in Gulf War I, thousands of Iraqi soldiers surrendered to American soldiers en masse because they knew they’d receive better treatment by American soldiers than from their own government.  She shows pictures of similar surrenders from numerous wars over the years and testimony about the expectations of good treatment by the enemy soldiers.  But the revelations of Bush-era torture of anyone they suspected of being an “enemy combatant” (an invented category to try to wiggle around the Geneva Conventions common article 3), she says, will lead many enemy soldiers, in whatever conflict, to fight to the death rather than surrender to U.S. troops.   This raises the danger level to U.S. troops. 

It’s an interesting argument and adds to the case that these policies made all Americans less safe by recruiting new terrorists and making American civilians fair game.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | torture, U.S. politics | 3 Comments

U. S. House Passes Bill Against Anti-Gay Hate Crimes

On 12 October 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming, Matthew Wayne Shepherd, a student at the University of Wyoming, died of head injuries.  These head injuries were sustained on 06 October when he was attacked, tortured, and murdered.  Although a later 20/20 report questioned this, at trial witnesses claimed that Shepherd was targetted because he was gay.  Ever since that time gay rights advocates have tried to get strong legislation passed that would combat anti-glbt violence as hate crimes, along with violence based on racism, sexism, bigotry against certain religions.  Some (not all) conservatives oppose the very idea of “hate crimes.”  Former Pres. George W. Bush used to say that all murders were “hate crimes” and therefore no special categories were needed.

I disagree.  By targetting crimes motivated by various forms of bigotry, law enforcement is pushed to treating them more seriously–and the law becomes a moral teacher that register’s society’s strong disapproval of both the hate-crime itself and of the bigotry that leads to such violence.

Yesterday, we made a stride in that direction for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered folk.  The House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Bill and sent it to the Senate.  President Obama supports the bill and urges its speedy passage so that he can sign it into law.  It is important to not that the bill would not criminalize anti-gay feelings or restrict free speech:  It targets violence motivated by bigotry, but only undirectly targets the bigotry itself.  It doesn’t criminalize bigotry, but by targetting the violence spawned by that bigotry registers strong disapproval–and calls hate for what it is.

April 30, 2009 Posted by | GLBT issues, human rights., U.S. politics, violence | 5 Comments