Cheers for Obama, Tears for California

Posted November 9, 2008 by Joel at Farm To Fork
Categories: Barack Obama, Election 2008, Faith, Justice

Tags: , ,

Nachus: Joy and pride and happiness all mixed into one. That’s what I felt when Obama won Ohio, and then Virginia, and then Florida. I was watching key counties, seeing how close it was in Virginia. I thought Fairfax County could swing the state, and it did. I barely got a chance to watch Ohio; the media called it for Obama early! 

Florida was another source of nachus. Miami-Dade, Broward, and West Palm Beach Counties were all solid for Obama. The Great Schelp must have worked! Indiana and North Carolina were icing on the cake. All these victories in all these formerly deep red states spoke of a mandate for change, real change. It also told us that more people were willing to vote their hopes than their fears.

I only wish my mother could have lived to see Obama elected. My mother, the Jewish, liberal, democrat. My mother, who—back in the 60s, put a sticker on our front door that said, in essence, “we would welcome a racially-integrated neighborhood.” An historic moment? The first non-white president? My mother would smile and say, “Well, it was about time!”

But my joy and great relief was tainted with the soul-crushing victory of the Religious Right in California. By force of money, lies, and propaganda, they succeeded in taking the marriage rights away from thousands—if not millions—of Californians, relegating them to second-class citizens once again.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: people’s fundamental rights should never, ever, be part of the ballot initiative. What would ballot initiatives have done in the South, before the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education and Congress’ Civil Rights Act of 1964? I wouldn’t have put it past them to try to legalize lynchings back in those days!

All fair minded, compassionate, justice-loving people must continue to fight until our LGBT brothers and sisters have equal rights and equal protections. Californians have failed—52% to 48%—to heed Barack Obama’s call: “we are our brothers’ keepers.”

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So VOTE Already!

Posted November 4, 2008 by Joel at Farm To Fork
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m overhearing my wife speaking on the telephone. She’s talking to swing state voters in Ohio, Virginia, and Colorado. Voter calling is her thing, she’s the extrovert in the family. I’m trying to do my part for Obama by writing and blogging. But I couldn’t resist passing on stories about some of the folks my wife has spoken to:

  • A grandmother in Ohio who heard a homily at Mass this past weekend that nearly called down the fires of hell on anyone who voted “against the unborn.” This woman is an Obama supporter who would have walked out of the Mass, had her grandchildren not been with her.
  • A retired man in rural Virginia who had a hard time believing Obama’s promises and whether or not they would help “poor folk” like him and his wife. “We’re not middle class,” he said, “we don’t make forty thousand, it’s more like twenty-five thousand.”
  • An Obama supporter in Colorado who just had shoulder surgery. She can’t drive, so she’s going to walk to the polls tomorrow. She also lives in a “rednecky” area where people are voting McCain/Palin simply because Sarah Palin hunts, and “they like that.”

She also gets hang-ups, people who won’t talk, and lots of answering machines. She dutifully leaves a message on each answering machine asks them to vote, and recites the address of their polling place.

While I’m listening, I’m reminded how precious our right to vote is. Perhaps too many of us take it for granted. Ironically enough, while my wife is telling everyone to please vote, I’m hearing from Greg Palast about the potential here in the U.S. of A. of suppressing some six million votes tomorrow.

If you haven’t voted yet, please go to Steal Back Your Vote and download the the “comic book” on that website. If you are challenged at the polls, try as hard as possible not to accept a provisional ballot. Or, better, call the “Election Protection Hotline” at 1-(866) OURVOTE.

Palast and I agree that the best remedy for election fraud and stolen votes is to go vote already. Even Palast remains hopeful, saying, “they can’t steal all the votes all the time.” 

But since this blog is about faith and politics, let me end by quoting Jim Wallis, asking us to vote our hopes, not our fears: “It is always better to live (and to vote) in the light of hope than in the darkness of fear. It is always an act of faith to believe that, in the end, hope will prevail over fear. So pray, and vote.” Or as I would put it, “So nu? What are you waiting for? Go vote already!”

Voting Our Values: Barack Obama

Posted November 2, 2008 by Joel at Farm To Fork
Categories: Barack Obama, Election 2008, Faith, Justice, Politics

Tags: , , ,

Today, November 2, 2008, people in evangelical and fundamentalist churches all across America are going to hear a sermon on “voting their values” or “voting Christian.” Unfortunately, this is once again evangelical-speak for “vote Republican.”  Pastors across the land are once again going to bring up abortion/gay marriage; some will even threaten their co-religionists with the fires of hell! (1)

To those Republican shills in clerical garb, we want to shout: we are values voters for Barack Obama. The values that we are voting are from the Jewish and Christian Scriptures—the totality of the Scriptures, not a few cherry-picked references. Our values are informed by Biblical precepts of justice, compassion, and tikkun olam, literally “the reparation of the world”, which is to say making the world a better place. More specifically, the values on which we’re voting have to do with poverty, our planet, and making peace.

Under Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush, the poor in this nation suffered under the illusion of “trickle down” economics. The logic went like this: if we give the rich tax breaks so they’ll have even more money, the benefits will “trickle down” to the poorest of the poor. During the last eight years, instead of “trickling down” we’ve seen “sucking up”: simply put, the rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and more and more people joined the ranks of the poor. 

Even worse, Reagan/Bush Republicans have consistently blamed the poor for their own poverty; if they would “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” and stop being “lazy” they could apparently go to the same elite schools and belong to the same elite golf clubs that they do! Nothing could be further from the truth. Joe the Walmart Clerk works just as hard—if not harder—than Joe the Wall Street Financeer. But Joe the Walmart Clerk is living below the poverty line.

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California Prop 8: The “Arguments” in Favor?

Posted October 30, 2008 by Joel at Farm To Fork
Categories: Election 2008, Faith, Justice, Politics

Tags: , ,

Once in a blue moon I get a “comment” from a troll on the “other side” of the issue or the political spectrum. Yesterday’s post on California Proposition 8 brought to my comment section the full quotation of an article for Prop. 8 by one Craig A. Huey. Mr. Huey appears to run a website in which he interprets politics through the “Christian worldview.” For those of you unfamiliar with American evangelical-speak, “Christian worldview” means anti-choice, anti-gay, and pro-Republican. Period. 

I doubt that Mr. Huey himself posted; presumably one of his followers did the actual cutting and pasting. Even so, I think it is worth a post to “respond” to Mr. Huey directly via his main points. I did not want to dignify the bulk of his article, as it was full of lies and propaganda, so you won’t find it in the comments. I don’t want to give him a link either; “do the Google” yourself, the article is easy enough to find.

His article is entitled “The battle for free speech and conscience.” He has three main points that I want to address: 

  1. Proposition 8 protects free speech.
  2. Same-sex marriage is “redefining” marriage as a civil right.
  3. Homosexuality is a choice.

I will address my comments directly to Mr. Huey; the rest of you may “listen in,” as it were.

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NO on California Prop. 8: What Part of “Discrimination” Don’t They Understand?

Posted October 29, 2008 by Joel at Farm To Fork
Categories: Election 2008, Justice, Politics

Tags: , ,
Write to Marry Day

Write to Marry Day

Why is it that LGBT issues always bring out the most hypocritical and mean-spirited streak in the so-called “Religious Right”? California’s Proposition 8 is yet another attempt to deny gays and lesbians the same rights—in this case, marriage rights—that the rest of us take for granted. Today is “Write to Marry Day” and I’m more than happy to do my part in joining bloggers across the nation to speak out against this hugely discriminatory ballot measure.

To our lasting shame, Oregon passed a similar amendment to our state constitution four years ago. Once again, the Religious Right took the lead, putting up money and propaganda to “defend traditional marriage.” As in California, the amendment was preceded by a judicial decision to permit gays and lesbians to marry under our state constitution. 

Duane and Kent (not their real names) are our neighbors. They have been together as a committed couple for some 30 years. Finally, in 2004, Duane and Kent had the State recognize their long-standing commitment to one another by granting them a marriage license. And then a few months later, the people of Oregon voted their marriage license away, just like that. At least they were refunded the fee of their marriage license. Duane said, “at least we can go out for Greek food with the refund.”

California wants to do exactly the same thing:  vote away the legal recognition, rights, privileges, that gay couples have been granted for only a few short months. Read the rest of this post »

Confidential to Joe the “Plumber:” Get an Accountant. Now.

Posted October 17, 2008 by Joel at Farm To Fork
Categories: Barack Obama, Election 2008, Politics

Tags: , ,

Joe the Plumber is pulling the wool over our eyes. The Toledo Blade says that in the State of Ohio, Joe isn’t even a plumber at all; he’s not licensed as a plumber and he’s not registered as a plumber. He works for a company called Newell Plumbing & Heating Co. He says he does plumbing for Al Newell (the owner of the above company), under Newell’s license. But technically, Joe isn’t a plumber, at least in the State of Ohio.

According to ABC News, Joe acknowledged today that he wants to buy the plumbing and heating business for $250,000, but the business makes much less than that $250k per year.

Which would seem to indicate that he would be eligible for an Obama tax cut, not that he would be subject to the tax increase from 36% to 39% Obama would impose on those making more than $200,000 per person, or $250,000 per family.

I work for a small business. Along with my brother and sister-in-law, I own another small business. And my wife runs a small business. I dare say I know a bit more about small businesses than most people. On top of that, both my parents were accountants; my father was a CPA specializing in tax law.

When we talk about taxes, we’re talking about profits. For all you non-small business owners out there, the profit is what you have left after you pay the salaries, the rent, the office supplies, and all your other expenses. Let me put it in perspective; in a good year, the family business will do about $700,000–$800,000 in business, but if we show a profit at all, it is very modest, $10,000 or less. The company I work for may have revenues over $2,000,000, but not show a profit at all. My wife’s business has rarely—if ever—shown a profit. You pay taxes on the profits. Let me repeat that: you pay taxes on the profits.

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America at Its Ugliest

Posted October 16, 2008 by Joel at Farm To Fork
Categories: Barack Obama, Election 2008, John McCain, Politics, Sarah Palin

Tags: ,

We are in the midst of the dirtiest political campaign I can remember. 1972 was dastardly—remember Watergate?—but the media was more or less non-partisan  in those days. Likewise in 1988: the campaign was full of mud-slinging, mostly Republican mud-slinging, I might add. (Remember Willie Horton?)

This campaign—especially the last couple weeks—has been a thoroughly demoralizing, depressing time. Wasn’t it bad enough that John McCain picked an unqualified nobody as his running mate just to pander to his religious right-wing base? Wasn’t it bad enough, to hear the chants of “drill, baby, drill” and know that additional drilling would not help us in the short term and do nothing to break our dependence on foreign oil?

What about that whisper campaign? Thousands of people still believe that Obama is a secret Muslim! The perpetrator of this fiction, one Andy Martin, has been in the news recently, for going on Faux News to “assert falsely and without challenge that Mr. Obama had once trained to overthrow the government.” (New York Times, Oct. 12, 2008) 

The Republicans are once again railing against ACORN which  is a  community organizing group that helps poor people in many ways, only one of which is by registering them to vote. The Republicans are screaming “voter fraud,” Faux News is blasting the party line, while the Republicans are quietly—and illegally in many cases—purging hundreds of thousands of voters from the rolls. By the way, the allegations against ACORN are completely false; the Republicans—aided and abetted by Rupert Murdoch and company—are using it as a smokescreen to purge the rolls.

But by far the nastiest, meanest, lowest, most dastardly tactic of all was the attempt at guilt-by-association with William Ayers. By exploiting the merest thread of a connection between Barack Obama and William Ayers, John McCain and Sarah Palin—once again aided and abetted by Faux News—have appealed to the willfully ignorant, playing to their prejudices. “Who is Barack Obama?” asks Palin or McCain; the response is that of a vicious mob.

I am deeply saddened beyond words. I am saddened that the willfully ignorant, the bigoted, and the prejudiced still exist in such numbers in this country of ours. I am saddened that the media, particularly Fox News and right-wing talk hate radio plays to these prejudices. 

If Obama wins the election—as the polls say he will—I fear his most difficult task will yet be in front of him. The task will be to lead, to enlighten, to enoble, and unify a deeply polarized country while the media—Faux News and talk radio—will attempt to thwart his every step. May G-d give him the strength and wisdom for the task ahead.