President Obama's Inauguration Speech

President Obama's Inauguration Speech

Made on Wordle using this transcript.

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Then and now

It’s fucked up to spend all day in a class about the Book of Judges, reading account after account about how Yhwh is understood to have demonstrated his love for the ancient people of Israel by helping them kill all their neighboring enemies – and then come home to this:

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This image (NYT) comes from airstrikes that occurred in Gaza City today.  This particular child was buried when the Israeli army destroyed a house filled with thirty people – because, naturally, the house belongs to a member of Hamas.  Other highlights from today’s airstrikes are that a U.N. school was hit, killing at least 30.

The most tragic thing is, this new violence isn’t new at all.  There have been 2800 years at minimum, and counting, of cyclical violence in this region – between roughly the same ethnic groups.  So will somebody please explain to me how even more violence now is going to finally achieve the peace for which both sides have so long been fighting?

What McCain and Obama's tax plans reveal about their priorities

The Washington Post has an interesting graphic which gives a good visual for both McCain and Obama’s tax priorities.  It’s easy to see the difference between the two:  for McCain, the more money you already have, the more you’ll get back from the government.  The less you have, the less you’ll get.  For Obama, those who have the least receive the most tax support proportionally:

These figures are based on the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of the candidate’s proposals.  (The full report is available on pdf here.)

What’s particularly striking to me is what this says about each candidate’s priorities.  John McCain evidently believes that those who have the most should be given the most back – both in terms of actual dollars and percentages of tax decreases.  Barack Obama has the exact opposite philosophy here:  those who have the least actually get the highest percentages back.

As a Christian first, but also as an American who believes in fairness and equal opportunity, I frankly can’t understand where John McCain is coming from.  The idea of giving the most to those who already have the most, and giving the least to those who have the least is completely backward. It belies the interests of economic greed to which McCain is beholden.  It is out of touch not only with the needs of real people, but with the biblical idea of whom in society should we really be helping.  If this is an example of how John McCain’s values translate to policy, he should be opposed not only on political but moral grounds.

UPDATE: Commenter cheyenne alerts us to another chart of the same data, created by chartjunk.  This one offers a visual that corresponds to the size of the U.S. population.

This blog is temporarily suspended.

Some of you may be wondering why I haven’t posted recently.  That’s understandable.  Here’s why: this blog has been suspended so it can go to the Senate for the first time since April 8th and work on the economic crisis.

(Note: this joke plagiarized directly from Muzikal203’s comment on the Great Orange Satan.)

Jeremiah Wright is still damn right

( This is a follow-up to this post, inspired by this comment.)

[UPDATE: If you haven’t seen Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments in their original context, follow this link.]

Each church has a unique context, with members who have particular needs and points of view. Trinity UCC has, since its inception, been one of the most honest churches I can think of in living the gospel and meeting the needs of the greater community on the south side of Chicago (read: low-income black folks, a community that has historically borne the brunt of America’s oppression). Depending on the circumstances that have brought folks to their point of need, “God damn America” can represent a liberating theological notion for those who have been harmed by America – or by the conflation of God/America like we’ve seen following September 11.

The powerful subtext behind “God damn America” is first and foremost that God is NOT America, and does not necessarily bless us just for being Americans. Depending on where you’ve come from, these can be liberating words that can lead people from despair, to God. As a pastor, Rev. Wright’s job at the pulpit isn’t to be politically correct, or to be safe, or comforting, or to not make waves or step on toes, but it is to declare the salvation of God – as effectively as possible, – for the folks who need to hear it. And if you listen to the tiny decontextualized video snippets of any of these “controversial” sermons, you will hear that Rev. Wright’s words deeply resonated with those who were there to hear them.

All I’m saying is, we – and by “we” I’m talking to outraged middle class folks who are so offended by Rev. Wright’s comments that they’re considering not voting for Obama as a result – we must realize that our self righteousness is not necessarily universal. It may well be crazy and indefensible for the pastor of our churches to preach “God damn America,” but then again, context is everything, isn’t it? (Yes, it is.)

Many are now asking, what does this say about Obama, and the emphasis that he has put on our national unity?

To me, it says that he has spent 20 years working in a church that has been a vibrant, saving institution for many low-income black folks in Chicago.

It says that Obama views the gospel message as one that requires adherence to God AND neighbor, just as Jesus commands.

Finally, it says that Obama, who has been through his own share of difficult times, has also spent his life meeting people at their point of need, without losing his optimism for the future of America.

And that is a candidate – and a faith perspective – that I can get behind.

The Bitter Picture Battle

So Drudge has somehow obtained an email circulated by Clinton campaign staffers, consisting of a photo of Obama dressed in traditional Somali clothing.  The picture was taken in 2006 in Kenya, and depicts Obama wearing, among other things, a turban. (See the perceived problem?) Supposedly one Clinton staffer wrote to another, “Wouldn’t we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were HRC?” This prompted the Obama camp to slam the hell outta Hillary:

“On the very day that Senator Clinton is giving a speech about restoring respect for America in the world, her campaign has engaged in the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we’ve seen from either party in this election.”

And the Clinton campaign’s response:

“Enough. If Barack Obama’s campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed.”

So who’s wrong here? Actually, I think it was a tie.

Barack’s campaign is responding as if Hillary Herself was out in front on this, when in reality it was probably the doing of some unimportant volunteer underling, if her camp’s involved at all. (That is, however, the danger of her campaign not keeping their game tight. Furthermore, we really haven’t seen crap like this coming out of the Obama camp, not even his unimportant volunteer underlings. And I think that says something.)

However, Hillary’s heckling of Obama’s over-outrage is just flat-out dumb. Yeah, I’m so sure that the Obama campaign thinks that traditional Somali clothing is divisive. Good one.

In the end, this will probably end up harming Clinton more than Obama, because it feeds right into the “typical Washington politics” angle. It’s too bad for her, but hey – this story wouldn’t have nearly as much traction if her campaign had kept a better lid on all those other campaign surrogate attacks. What goes around…

Other states can pick a president too

With all due respect to the citizens of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, how is it fair that they get such disproportionate power over the rest of us every election cycle? Why should some states always be given greater influence to determine the presidential nominee, over and over again?

primaries_early.jpgI’m getting ready to vote, but my two favorite candidates have already dropped out, because these other privileged states have already determined them not to be viable. Same thing happened in 2004. Same states.

It’s time to shake up that unfair influence. The privilege of picking the “viable” nominees should be on a rotation, not just given to the same select voters every time.

Here’s the Tom Ryberg proposal:

Every four years, the major parties pick three different states to go first: one coastal, one midwestern, and one southern. All others vote on Super Tuesday, or thereafter.

Think I’m onto something? Tired of voting after it’s all but been predetermined for you already? Tell them about it (and while you’re at it, tell them too).