Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sadness on Saturday

Today's post will be a short one, mainly because of how ridiculous I find the abundance of presidential candidates on MySpace to be.

Hillary Clinton is sponsoring the website I Can Be President, which claims that we should tell our children that they can be president.

I'll add an addendum: if you're a multi-millionaire who'd sell their soul to lobbyists to get the bid.

Welcome to America.

Friday, April 27, 2007

All the News That's Fit to Print

So poorly photoshopped image aside, I'd like to discuss the state of news in America today. I could probably go to a newsstand (at bookstores, on the street, wherever) and be inundated with news that might interest me. Which celebrity is marrying whom? Who got dumped? What did Don Imus say now? Who on earth is Anna Nicole Smith's baby's daddy? And not to belittle the situtation, but who shot who and where?

However, burried somewhere underneath all of this, perhaps on page four or mentioned in an editorial, is perhaps the most important news story of our time: the Iraq War.

As someone who keeps up with the news daily, and generally attempts to watch a few of the major networks at night, I find it interesting how little Iraq is mentioned or talked about. Aside from the glaring debates about whether we should be there (or the dropping of support for the war from people like Bill O'Reilly), no real news is coming from the arid deserts of former Babylon.

In Congress now is a major battle over the Iraq Funding Bill, and this is splattered on the news, but what about the war itself? It's non-existant.

So, in an attempt to balance this situation, I'd love to point you to things coming from Iraq or specifically about Iraq. Especially the soldiers and marines, their stories, etc. However, this becomes increasingly difficult because of the lack of coverage. Aside from an amazing article I read in Rolling Stone about a year ago (Johnny Depp in Captain Jack regalia gracing the cover), I've been disatisfied with coverage from the media, and that's our only source.

Except for the viral world. Thanks to websites like YouTube or Video Google (owned by the same company, and yet...competitors), the soldiers are able to get their stories out.

Thanks to an article from PBS blogs, you can read and see how these sites are helping our troops: You Tube Offers Soldier's Eye View of Iraq War. It's a slightly dated article, but the resource is still there.

From videos like Lazy Ramadi, a soldier's response to the SNL "Lazy Sunday" skit, to the controversial Haji Girl, to more serious fare, the soldiers and Marines are saying something...and I think it's very important that we start listening.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Final(s) Difficulties

Due to the overwhelming demands of school work, The Grounded Middle will return on Friday April, 27. A post will follow on Saturday, with a Double Sundaes on Sunday, and then posts Monday and Wednesday of next week.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but regular posting will return after that.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Jesus Approves of This Message *

*not necessarily an accurate statement. Jesus may NOT approve of this message, but I can almost guarantee he doesn't approve of a lot of the messages being espoused in his name in this day and age.

So Jesus votes Republican. We all know this. How do we know? We've been told. Jesus votes Republican, and if you're for Jesus, you better vote Republican, too. What's wrong with this picture?

America was founded by Christians. Don't you know? Founded by Christians on Christian principles, so therefore Christianity is obviously the religion of America. Right? What's wrong with this picture?

I've just presented two ideas that are running rampant in today's culture. In recent years (mainly since 9/11 or since Bush) Religion and Politics have become as enmeshed as Meat and Potatoes, or Hamburgers and French Fries (wait...that's meat and potatoes, too....). Americans are turning out in record numbers (*cough* not really) to the polls to vote their religious beliefs into practice. Gay marriage? NO! Abortion? Not on their watch. Bush? A God-send, so send him back to the Oval Office.

Again I ask: What's wrong with this picture?

Now, I'm not saying that Christianity is bad, nor are Christians (myself included) inherently bad people. Nor is Christianity bad for America (The Evangelical movement...another animal altogether). Christians (or at least some Christians) did found this nation, and many of the laws can be drawn back to Christian ideology. But also back to Muslim or Hindu or many other religious ideologies. Or even the Code of Hammurabi, or writings from the Greek Culture (famously polytheistic). To say that America is a Christian nation because our laws bear a striking resemblance to the 10 Commandments, is like saying that my Civic (I do not drive a Honda Civic) is a Ford F-150 because they both run on gasoline.

I may be reaching.

However, it is when the American populace brings Religion to the Political table that problems arise. People like Becky Fisher (the woman in the picture above, famously depicted in the documentary Jesus Camp which I highly recommend) are claiming in America today, and teaching our children, that Religion and America/Politics are inseparable. And this, my readers, is wrong.

I'm not going to go into a spiel about "separation of Church and State" because, for all intents and purposes, this is not written in the Constitution. Sure, letters between Thomas Jefferson and other founding fathers mentioned the importance of this separation, but those five words do not appear in the Constitution anywhere.

However: Americans are given the right to form/follow religions of their choosing, and the Constitution mentions that the endorsing/formation of religion by Congress is a no-no. But in America today, Christianity has risen to the forefront of politics and is effecting real change in all branches of our government.

What are the headlines today out of Washington? The banning of partial birth abortion; the resurgence of opposition to Roe vs. Wade; posting of the 10 Commandments in governmental buildings; prayer in public school; etc. (the first two have been discussed recently, the last two: probably on the dockets before too long).

Now, in my personal opinion, abortion (especially partial birth) is wrong, unless in cases where rape or incest is considered, or if the mother's life is in danger. However, my political opinion (amazing that the two can be diverged from one another) it should be a woman's right to choose.

Gay marriage? I personally am not for it, but politically, how does this effect my life? How can we take rights away from people? Is that really what America is all about?

If more Christians were like that, America could, as Bill O'Reilly fears, drift into a secular-progressive mindset, but is that such a bad thing?

Jesus preached a few things in his day, and a large portion of those things were peace, love, happiness, tolerance, etc. et all. He did not preach warfare or hatred or interfering with governments (famously he said: "Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's"). Jesus would not be at the forefront of American Politics if he were around today. He'd be somewhere, with outcasts and sinners, preaching the good word while the "Christians" led a "Culture War" that doesn't exist.

What's wrong with this picture?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Double Sundaes: Crazies to the Left of Me

I think I should open with a warning: I'm not being derogatory to all people of the Left persuasion (just as in a later post I will not be derogatory to all people of the Right persuasion). Many of my close friends are Liberal, and I myself have some Liberal leanings (hence my position in the middle). However, in recent months it has become obvious that many of the left have gone cuckoo, and I'm sure much of America would agree.

When Rosie O'Donnell sits on The View and claims that America had something to do with 9/11, you know things are going to get ugly. Claiming that something other than the heat brought WTC 7 to the ground, Rosie insinuates that 9/11 wasn't as cut and dry as the American government (or more closely: the Bush Administration) would have us believe.

And she isn't alone. While 9/11 conspiracies have been plaguing the Internet since, well, 9/11, very soon a documentary supposedly proving many of the 9/11 myths, will be released, narrated by none-other-than Charlie Sheen. While he may be starring in the number one comedy on network television, his sideline work as a major proponent behind the, "America did 9/11" ilk has drawn him the ire from Fox News talking heads and MSNBC leftist ideologues alike.

Not to say that leftist ideology breeds these kind of crazies, but these people are obviously from the left. Perhaps it was 8 years under Bush (6 of those under a Republican controlled congress) that drove them all bonkers.

How many licks does it take to get to the insane center of a Liberal? The world may never know.

(hope the humorous edition of Double Sundaes wasn't too much to bear. Poking fun at the Repubs next week will be just as humorous)

Double Sundaes: Planet Earth

When I think about the future, I can't help but to imagine my home (maybe a white picket fence, although that's never really appealed to me), my wife, my kids, my job. I don't find myself often thinking about important things like future wars, or what type of fuel we'll be using, or how much a loaf of bread will cost or, perhaps the most important question: will the future even come?

It's not exactly scientific to think that, at least in my lifetime, the end of the world will come. Sure, there is a lot of hubbub over global warming now, but no one suspects that it will bring about a Day After Tomorrow style of "end" to the human race as we know it (or America at least). Movies like that attempt to show us where we've messed up; they try to teach America (and other gas guzzling rich nations like England or Northern Europe) a lesson. This proverbial shaking of the finger at our SUVs and oil dependency comes with entertainment and famous actors; not with real threat.

However, it is scientific to think that the world as we know it may be much different within our lifetimes, and easily within our children's' lifetimes. With increased threat of vicious storms, rising temperatures, and, eventually, lowered availability of oil, water, land, and food resources, our future planet seems to be in dire straits. And we really need to start bracing for that fall.

I'm not necessarily a subscriber to the "Humans are the sole proprietor of the destruction of our planet" ideology. While I do think that our actions since the Industrial Revolution have had a general effect on the earth's environment, the changes that are taking place now, have happened before. It would be interesting to look at a climate change graph of hundreds of thousands of years (rather than the thousand year graph we presently view when talking about global warming) to see the changes.

At some point in time, our planet was much colder than it is now. This is unquestionable. The ice caps of the north and south extended much further towards the equator, animals like Mammoths existed then, and animals like Dinosaurs were killed out because they couldn't take the cold (theoretically). In the same vein, the earth was also much warmer. At some point in time, the ice caps were much smaller than they are now, if not non-existent. In the US we can see this evidenced through cave formations like the Mammoth in Kentucky, which were formed when that state was under feet of water. Once Kentucky was a swamp, evidencing that water levels were once much higher than they are today.

Today's rising temperature could by the result of human interaction with our environment, or it could just be a sign of the regular climate changes that earth undergoes.

This doesn't, however, change the fact that the differing environment will have an increasingly important effect on the human population. And this is what has become an important cultural and political subject in America today. Al Gore and his fellow producers of An Inconvenient Truth have capitalized on this important issue. Populations in coastal areas are going to be directly effected by rising water levels, and millions of people (in America alone) will be displaced.

The question is: can we do anything to stop it? At some point, I'm not so sure we're the direct cause of this change, but we may be speeding up the time line. Anything we can do to stop our dependency on damaging fossil fuels is a good thing. Right now, we're in a war in Iraq that could, arguably, have been caused by our need for oil. Future wars are going to be fought over the liquid black-gold, unless we cease the need.

So, we can do something good for the environment (theoretically) while also doing something good for peace. Let's wait till water starts wars. Until then, we should all be able to breathe a bit easier.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Show Me The Money

First: It's amazing how quickly life can lay waste to the best laid plans. So opening apologies for the inconsistent posting the last couple days. I'll attempt to make up for that on Sunday.

And now to the story:

So Iraq is probably not the most popular topic among Americans today. Politically, it's the most explosive issue to hit America in quite a long time, and for many reasons. While it's not quite Vietnam (let us remember that that lasted for 10 years, we were fighting against an organized army, we never really made headway, etc.), it's not far off. We may have won the country, but the peace is appearing to be much more illusive.

In the beginning, I was opposed to Iraq. After the victory in Afghanistan, the shut down of the Taliban, I was of the opinion that we had punished those who harbored the terrorists responsible for 9/11. When the talk about Iraq began, a sick feeling descended down upon me, and I could only shake my head. "it's a bad idea...we have no proof of WMDs" etc.

In the post 9/11 high of pro-America, this was obviously not a popular opinion. I think this would be a great place to mention that many/most of the Democrats who are today bashing the war and the plan for the war, APPROVED the war and the plan for the war four years ago. They voted for us to go into battle, knowing the suggested plan, and yet today they blame all of this failure on the President? Of course, they're doing a good job of deflecting blame, as Iraq is helping their election process, while it is hurting the Republicans.

Today, however, I have to say I'm a supporter of the war effort. I still think it was wrong to go into the conflict in the first place, but the effort, being performed by the soldiers and marines of the US Military, deserves our highest faith and support. No matter how much I disagree with our being in Iraq, I can't effectively blast the war without also condemning the efforts of our Military.

I strongly support our military, and have often considered that track as perhaps my own future.

In that vein, I think it's high time the funding conflict going on in Washington, especially from the Democrats point of view in which they are threatening to cut off funding to the troops, needs to end. No matter how unpopular the war is, the funding to our troops cannot cease.

I think it's highly irresponsible to even play around with the idea of forcing the president to pull out of Iraq by canceling the funding. That sends a message to the troops that their well-being is expendable for cheap political gain. Washington is a battleground, but it's not Iraq. Iraq is real life. Washington is political life. The two are very different.