Notes from underground

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Archive for the tag “Barack Obama”

American elections: rhetoric and reality

The American general election is difficult to avoid on the Internet, as people are discussing it everywhere. As the election has drawn closer, the rhetoric has tended to become more and more intemperate, and I was tending to judge the merits of the candidates by the nastiness of their supporters, and blogged about it here.

But that is not the best way of becoming aware of the issues, or what the candidates stand for.

And then this came up on my Facebook thingy (I’m not sure if it’s a “wall” or a “timeline” or a “status”, but if you’re on Facebook you’ll know what I mean). It comes from an Orthodox priest — no names, no packdrill. I’m sure he is not ashamed of saying such things, but I am embarrassed for him.

Inspired by the comments of David French, in The Christian Post:
This election presents perhaps the clearest moral contrast of my adult life.

On one side is a candidate who is pro-life, and defends religious liberty. As governor of one of America’s most liberal states, he vetoed expanded access to the so-called “morning after” abortion pill and vetoed a bill permitting embryonic stem cell research, and was awarded by Citizens For Life for his prolife leadership.

On the other side is an incumbent who is radically pro-abortion (even supporting taxpayer funding of abortion), and has launched a frontal assault on religious liberty and the rights of conscience. After promising his healthcare plan would not include abortion, his administration redefined “preventative care” (which means to screen for diseases, such as cancer) to include contraception (as if pregnancy is a *disease*); he then redefined “contraception” to include abortion drugs (so his healthcare plan would require abortion coverage), and finally, his administration redefined “religious exemption” such that churches will be forced to pay for this murder of children.

On the one side is a candidate who supports marriage, both by policy and by personal example. In the battle for marriage, Maggie Gallagher, founder of the National Organization for Marriage, writes: “Mitt Romney didn’t just oppose court-ordered same-sex marriage with words, he fought hard, including behind the scenes.” On the other side is an incumbent who refused, as Chief Law Enforcement Agent in the Nation, to defend the federal law DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act (signed by Bill Clinton), and who recinded military policies in favor of a homosexual agenda, and who has come out publicly in favor of same sex “marriage.”

I’m not sure that political candidates in a democratic election present a moral choice that is that clear and simple, so I did a Google search for one of those quiz thingies that present you with policies of election candidates, and then tell you who comes closest to your moral choices.

I found several such quizzes, and did four of them.

One told me I should suppport Barack Obama, clearly and unequivocally.

Another said that I should support the Democrats and/or the Libertarians, as they fitted the bill equally.

The other two said I should support Jill Stein.

Jill who?

I had to Google to find out who she was.

It turns out she’s the leader of the Green party.

This is what one of the quizzes said:

I thought that that was also the best quiz, and you can see more about it here.

It has simple Yes/No questions, but if you want something more nuanced, it will show you more possibilities.

Of course I’m not American, and the things that are important to me might not be as important to those who live in the USA, and vice versa.

For what it’s worth, I answered the quiz from a strongly “pro-life” point of view. I marked the “pro-life” questions as “most important” to me — abortion, capital punishment, embryonic stem-cell research and the war in Iraq — and indicated that I was strongly against them all.

Of course in the interpretive summary, those are not all classified together as “pro-life”, but are divided between social, domestic, foreign and science policies.

But one thing I am sure of is that this election does not present the “clearest moral contrast” of anybody’s adult life.

The issues are not black and white, but varying shades of grey.

The greatest mistake would be to think that the election of one of the candidates would be a great triumph, or that the election of another would be an unmitigated disaster. Such an attitude indicates a kind of political messianism that is unbecoming for Christians, to say the least. “Put not your trust in princes.”

Religion and politics

Religion and politics don’t mix — well that’s what the pietistic evangelicals of the religious right used to tell us back in the days of apartheid. Therefore, they concluded, Christians should not criticise political leaders and their policy of apartheid and the ethnic cleansing that resulted from it. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”.

Now the boot is on the other foot, and it is the secular humanists and the “new atheists” who are saying that religion and politics don’t mix, and one gets the impression that if they had their way there would be two voters rolls, an A roll for atheists, to elect 350 members of parliament, and a B roll for agnostics, who would be allowed to elect 50 members of parliament, and the rest would have no vote at all, and everyone knows that all war, hatred and oppression in the world has been caused by religion, and until the superstitious have come to their senses they should not be allowed to vote.

But what about the politicians themselves?

Over the last week there have been several news items about prominant politicians and their religious views, practices or utterances, to wit Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama and Jacob Zuma. These have been interesting, but even more interesting have been the responses.

Let’s start with Jake the Fake. So far no one has put it better than Tinyiko Sam Maluleke’s Blog – Thinking Allowed!: Welcome to Jacob Zuma’s Heaven:

“When you vote for the ANC, you are also choosing to go to heaven. When you don’t vote for the ANC you should know that you are choosing that man who carries a fork … who cooks people.” Thus spake the son of God to loud cheers and unstoppable giggles. And not for the first time, mind you. He spoke before, he is speaking now and he will speak again. How many times before, has he underlined the intimate relationship between the ANC and the Lord? With uncharacteristic calm and collection, our Jacob has pointed out that until the Lord returns, the ANC will rule. To the ANC has ruling authority been granted during this interim period of uncertainly — the in-between period — the period between the ascension of Jesus and the return of Jesus. Only those who hide in the ark called ANC will survive the trials and tribulations of the current age! You have heard it said before that Jesus will return to fetch the righteous and the holy, but in Mthatha last Friday, Jacob the son of God said to you, Jesus will return to fetch those clad in the black, green and gold.

‘Nuff said. If you want to read more, go and read the rest of it on Tinyiko’s blog.

Then there was this: Putin on Mount Athos pilgrimage:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has visited the monastic community of Mount Athos in Greece, one of Orthodox Christianity’s holiest sites.

He was the first Russian leader to visit the male-only community, on a narrow, rocky peninsula east of Thessaloniki, Russian TV reported.

The trip was part of Mr Putin’s two-day visit to Greece.

He has openly embraced the Orthodox faith, despite having served the atheist Soviet regime as a KGB officer.

Well, I suppose that makes him an apostate atheist, but at least he has gone to the source, unlike the days when the leader of the Russian Communist Party, anxious to acquire some of the magic pixie dust that fell from the church, which public opinion polls showed was more trusted by the people than politicians, decided to visit a church one day for a photo-op, and lit a candle with his cigarette lighter.

And then there is Barack Obama.

If Putin was a convert from atheism, Barack Obama, was a convert from agnosticism and, rather touchingly, seems as much concerned about his own family as about religion in the great affairs of state or the fortunes of his party. Barack Obama affirms his Christianity | The Guardian:

The US president told the national prayer breakfast in Washington that he prays for peace in the Middle East – and that he also asks for God’s assistance with his 12-year-old daughter, Malia.

‘Lord, give me patience as I watch Malia go to her first dance, where there will be boys. Lord, let her skirt get longer as she travels to that place,’ Obama recounted.

Obama’s speech today was laced with Biblical references in his most public affirmation of his faith. With many Americans under the illusion that he might be a covert Muslim, Obama explained: ‘I came to know Jesus Christ for myself and embrace him as my Lord and Saviour.’

Obama described his upbringing as ‘not religious’, his father as a non-believer and his mother ‘grew up with a certain scepticism … she only took me to church at Easter and Christmas – sometimes’.

The response of one American (but typical of other responses) to this news was to say “The Koran permits lying if doing so benefits Islam.”

We are urged to pray for rulers and civil authorities, so let us pray for all these leaders. But especially Barack Obama, because he is evidently president of a nation of lunatics.

Bad advisors, bad advice

US President Barack Obama based his election campaign on change, and one of the things he promised to change was the detention without trial system introduced by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Obama managed to create the impression that he would get rid of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp within a year.

But not only is the Guantanamo Bay camp still there, but now Obama’s advisors are urging him to make detention without trial a permanent feature of the US polity.

Hat-tip to Obama’s liberty problem: A conservative blog for peace

Bill Quigley and Vince Warren: Obama’s Liberty Problem:

Advisors in the Obama administration have floated the idea of creating a special new legal system to indefinitely detain people by Executive Order.

Why? To do something with the people wrongfully imprisoned in Guantanamo. Why not follow the law and try them? The government knows it will not be able to win prosecutions against them because they were tortured by the US.

Guantanamo is coming up on its ninth anniversary – a horrifying stain on the character of the US commitment to justice. President Obama knows well that Guantanamo is the most powerful recruitment tool for those challenging the US. Unfortunately, this proposal for indefinite detention will prolong the corrosive effects of the illegal and immoral detentions at Guantanamo rightly condemned world-wide.

Needless to say, this is thoroughly bad advice, and one can only hope that he will not take it, and also that he will sack these advisors and appoint others who have a better understanding of all those good things like freedom and democracy.

US President Barack Obama related to all US presidents but one

7th-Grader: Obama, Most US Presidents Related – Central Coast News Story – KSBW The Central Coast:

SALINAS, Calif. — A seventh-grader and her 80-year-old grandfather are allegedly the first people to discover that President Barack Obama is related to all other U.S. presidents except one.

BridgeAnne d’Avignon, who attends Monte Vista Christian School in Watsonville, traced that Obama, and all other U.S. presidents except Martin Van Buren, are related to John ‘Lackland’ Plantagenet, a king of England and signer of the Magna Carta.

Hat-tip to Father Milovan.

Inauguration of US President Barack Obama

We watched the inauguration of US President Barack Obama on TV, and recorded it to watch again in 8 years time if I’m still around.

He made a good speech.

The orchestral music was significant in view of the theme of “change” – Simple gifts. The words were not sung, but for those who know them, they are perhaps significant:

‘Tis the gift to be simple
‘Tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
and when we find ourselves in the place just right
‘Twill be in the valley of joy and delight.

When true simplicity is gained
To bow and bend we shan’t be ashamed
To turn, turn will be our delight
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Which perhaps signals the end of American hubris. I hope so!

And there seemed to be an atmosphere of hope, similar to the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela here in 1994. It just felt like a similar atmosphere.

Of course hopes can be disappointed, and people perhaps have impossible expectations, which can never be fulfilled. But it’s a bit like a wedding, of which Fr Alexander Schmemann said the grace and hope can be lost, perhaps in a single night, but the potential is still there.

Bye Bye George — we won’t miss you

I suppose half the bloggers in the world will be writing about the departure of George Bush and the inauguration of Barack Obama as US president today, so why should I add my words to theirs when there have probably been far too many words already?

Yet if I’m still around in 8 years time, and if the world is still around in 8 years time, I’d like to look back on this day and see whether what I hoped and feared has come to pass.

I think probably most of the world will breathe a sigh of relief at the departure of George Bush.

There are plenty of other trigger-happy lunatic politicans in the world, willing to commit murder and mayhem for evil, trivial or even completely inexplicable reasons that one can only guess at. But none of them has the miliary weaponry and economic resources that George Bush had at his disposal. The USSR took on Afghanistan, and the result was that the Bolsheviks took a beating. George Bush invaded both Afghanistan and Iraq, and the chickens are only now coming home to roost.

Bob Mugabe in Zimbabwe took a beating in the Congo, and is now taking it out on his own people. He doesn’t have the resources to spread anything more than cholera to other countries, thank God. Ehud Olmert bombed Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza this month. Osama bin Laden seems to be reduced to sending enigmatic videos to TV stations every few months.

But we can breathe a sigh of relief. At least George Bush never got round to bombing Iran or Venezuela, as some feared that he might.

Barack Obama is still an unknown quantity.

He has sung the praises of the pudding, but let’s see what the first spoonful tastes like. Let’s see if he can turn his rhetoric into reality. His rhetoric is good. As some journalists have noted, at least he speaks in complete sentences with comprehensible syntax, though some journalists say they will miss George Bush for his more incomprehensible utterances. As Rehana Rossouw said in The Weekender (17-18 Jan 2009)

I’m going to miss him mostly because he’s been a great source of comfort. For 10 years I’ve been able to take comfort when our political leaders stuff up by telling myself that there is someone in office worse than them.

And I must say I agree. When people knocked Thabo Mbeki and said he was such a bad president, I’d look at the leaders of other countries and realise how lucky we were. George Bush, Tony Blair, Ehud Olmert, Bob Mugabe, Vladimir Putin. Compared with them Thabo Mbeki looked positively angelic, and though he was no more able to restrain Robert Mugabe than George Bush was able to restrain Ehud Olmert he didn’t conduct bloody wars against countries on the other side of the globe.

But though I took comfort from the th0ught that people like George Bush were so much worse than Thabo Mbeki, I also can’t escape the thought that Barack Obama will be so much better. Even if he doesn’t manage to make things better in the short term, unlike Bush, I don’t think he will deliberately act to make them worse, by invading Iran, for example.

Whether the promised change we can believe in will materialise I don’t know. But for the moment I’m willing to settle for no change for the worse. And much of the threat of that is leaving with George Bush.

But then Jacob Zuma is waiting in the wings.

Will the real socialists please stand up

During the recent US elections, there were all kinds of stories flying around the internet from Americans to the effect that Barack Obama was a “socialist”, which made it clear that a lot of people simply don’t have a clue about what “socialism” actually means.

Hat-tip to the Western Confucian for this piece from a real socialist explaining what it’s all about.

Where Are All The Socialists? Here, There and Everywhere |

Socialism shares one thing in common with religion; there are many denominations and sects and they all claim to hold some higher truth. I don’t claim to hold a higher truth. I do have a perspective on socialism, and that is, of course, open to disagreement.

Not all socialists are Marxists or atheists. Norman Thomas, the leader of the party in the 1930s and ’40s, was an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Socialists do not believe nationalization of an industry, government buying stocks in banks or the subsides to auto makers makes the country socialist.

Will the real socialists please stand up

During the recent US elections, there were all kinds of stories flying around the internet from Americans to the effect that Barack Obama was a “socialist”, which made it clear that a lot of people simply don’t have a clue about what “socialism” actually means.

Hat-tip to the Western Confucian for this piece from a real socialist explaining what it’s all about.

Where Are All The Socialists? Here, There and Everywhere |

Socialism shares one thing in common with religion; there are many denominations and sects and they all claim to hold some higher truth. I don’t claim to hold a higher truth. I do have a perspective on socialism, and that is, of course, open to disagreement.

Not all socialists are Marxists or atheists. Norman Thomas, the leader of the party in the 1930s and ’40s, was an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Socialists do not believe nationalization of an industry, government buying stocks in banks or the subsides to auto makers makes the country socialist.

Incredible change

More evidence that Barack Obama’s “Change you can believe in” slogan rings hollow.

OpEdNews — Conned Again:

If the change President-elect Obama has promised includes a halt to America’s wars of aggression and an end to the rip-off of taxpayers by powerful financial interests, what explains Obama’s choice of foreign and economic policy advisors? Indeed, Obama’s selection of Rahm Israel Emanuel as White House chief of staff is a signal that change ended with Obama’s election. The only thing different about the new administration will be the faces.

Rahm Israel Emanuel is a supporter of Bush’s invasion of Iraq. Emanuel rose to prominence in the Democratic Party as a result of his fundraising connections to AIPAC. A strong supporter of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, he comes from a terrorist family. His father was a member of Irgun, a Jewish terrorist organization that used violence to drive the British and Palestinians out of Palestine in order to create the Jewish state. During the 1991 Gulf War, Rahm Israel Emanuel volunteered to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. He was a member of the Freddie Mac board of directors and received $231,655 in directors fees in 2001. According to Wikipedia, ‘during the time Emanuel spent on the board, Freddie Mac was plagued with scandals involving campaign contributions and accounting irregularities.’

The hollowness of the slogan became apparent as soon as he had secured enough votes to win the Democratic Party nomination (see Notes from underground: Oh well, so much for peace and Notes from underground: Why Clinton Lost and why Obama won). Change didn’t end with his election, it ended with his nomination.

Many people last week said Barack Obama’s election gave them hope, but it’s proving to be a very false hope indeed.

Support Obama’s agenda

No doubt Barack Obama has a pretty long agenda for the next few months. Avaaz invites people to send him congratulations on being elected, and reminding him on the things that need to be at the top of that long agenda — the things that can’t wait.

Avaaz says:

After 8 long years of Bush – a fresh start. Let’s seize this historic moment to send a flood of global messages to Obama.

Our message and the number of signers, as well as all our personal messages, will be displayed on a giant wall in the heart of Washington DC.

Over the next 48 hours, the wall could become a focal point for US media reporting on global reactions to the Obama win. A massive global response will help make this a major moment of unity and reconciliation between the US and the world. Let’s get to a million!

So send your congratulations, and a message, along with thousands of others, by clicking and signing here.

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