Tuesday, August 31, 2010

God, the gospel, and Glenn Beck

This was an excellent article.

By Russell Moore

A Mormon television star stands in front of the Lincoln Memorial and calls American Christians to revival. He assembles some evangelical celebrities to give testimonies, and then preaches a God and country revivalism that leaves the evangelicals cheering that they've heard the gospel, right there in the nation's capital.

The news media pronounces him the new leader of America's Christian conservative movement, and a flock of America's Christian conservatives have no problem with that.

If you'd told me that ten years ago, I would have assumed it was from the pages of an evangelical apocalyptic novel about the end-times. But it's not. It's from this week's headlines. And it is a scandal.

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck, of course, is that Mormon at the center of all this. Beck isn't the problem. He's an entrepreneur, he's brilliant, and, hats off to him, he knows his market (see video news report). Latter-day Saints have every right to speak, with full religious liberty, in the public square. I'm quite willing to work with Mormons on various issues, as citizens working for the common good. What concerns me here is not what this says about Beck or the "Tea Party" or any other entertainment or political figure. What concerns me is about what this says about the Christian churches in the United States.

It's taken us a long time to get here, in this plummet from Francis Schaeffer to Glenn Beck. In order to be this gullible, American Christians have had to endure years of vacuous talk about undefined "revival" and "turning America back to God" that was less about anything uniquely Christian than about, at best, a generically theistic civil religion and, at worst, some partisan political movement.

Read the rest.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Current Events

So, a pastor in Florida is going to sponsor a Qur'an burning at his church on September 11.

I can't stand people who want to burn books. I don't care what book it is. You have to be some kind of crazy person to intentionally burn a book. For real.

Further, where exactly is this man's church going to get the Qur'ans they are going to burn? Buy them? Um...wait. We're going to spend money...just so that we can summarily burn it. Right. Why not just sponsor a burning of Fed money? Because that would make just about as much sense.

Anyway, in further news. The Americans for Prosperity Foundation is in trouble. Turns out that, under 501(c)3 status, a company/foundation/organization cannot make any explicitly political statements. For instance, they can't bash certain policies of certain people we all know. To Tim Phillips, I'd just like to say- "voter education" doesn't include bashing just the opposite party's platform. That's telling the voters what we wish they'd think. How about we just let Fox News handle that, hmm?

Also, the Presidential family went on vacation (again). Not that I really care. Wish I had time to go golfing. Oh wait, I do, but I'm not the President. Right. I still don't care. What, you're saying it's wrong of him to spend his salary on what he wants? Really? How does that work?

Seeing as we, the American people, do have to pay our President, and said President does have alternate sources of income (his wife still has her own income, I believe), he can spend his money however he wants. If I had as much money as he seems to, I'd be taking trips to Martha's Vineyard, too. Of course, it might be hypocritical for him to counsel us to tighten our belts, then go on a vacation. But then again, Obama doesn't have the monopoly on bad advice. Remember Bush, telling us to "go shopping" in response to 9/11...and we all know where that brought us.

Wall Street is defecting to the Republicans, moving away from their normal ally, the Democrats. Odd, that.

So Democrats are using it as a campaign talking-point, that Republicans are, fundamentally, friends of big business, and not to be trusted as, obviously, big business must be paying off Republicans to try to repeal the stimulus/etc. if Republicans want to do so. Does that have logical validity? Sure. Is it likely? Probably. But Democrats have also been bought off in times past, and still are, so there you go.

So anyway. Americans are still concerned with things that aren't really important, a la Cordoba House, Republicans (and Democrats) are being bought off by Wall Street, and lots of other people, and our political system is still just as messed up as ever.

In other words, just another day in the life.

Cordoba House

Something I had never considered before- seeing as the Cordoba House (variously known as the "Ground Zero Mosque" or Park51) is being built on Park Place, this could very well interfere with a cultural icon dear to the hearts of many Americans.

Anyone who has ever played the game Monopoly knows that Park Place is one of the most expensive properties, and hence arguably one of the most important. If the Cordoba House is built on Park Place, it might very well be seen as an attempt to take over the beloved game of Monopoly.

Those evil Muslims.

(Disclaimer: if you did not get the sarcasm inherent in this post, you really should go get some sleep, and then come back and reread it.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Parent Company Trap

Jon Stewart critiques the folks over on Fox News over their obsessive (or not so much) tracing of "where Rauf's money is coming from."

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Parent Company Trap
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

Now let me say- I don't think the majority of people over at Fox News are necessarily stupid. Misguided, perhaps, though no more misguided than the folks over at say, CNN or ABC or CBS or the NYTimes or the Washington Post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ad Hominem

I find it semi-hilarious when I'm attacked because of my stance in a debate, in a kind of strange, bittersweet way that isn't really all that funny when you really think about it.

Count as of now:
Three times in the past week my faith has been called into question.
Two times in the past week, my love for America has been called into question.

Two of the first three was because of the Cordoba House (Park51). The other was because of a gay marriage debate concerning Elena Kagan's confirmation and Prop. 8. The past two were because of said Cordoba House.

Once it was from someone I've looked up to as near-family.

It's rather sad, actually, how people you know and love can call into question some of the things that shouldn't be questioned just because you disagree with them.

So, for future reference, to all those who may want to attack me on these two things:

Don't call into question my faith in my God. Please. Let me and God take care of that one. We have a pretty good handle on it.

Please don't attack my "love for America." America is a great nation. She has problems. Calling her out on those problems isn't "attacking America." That's constructive criticism that should be put into effect to make America better.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Leaving Iraq?

So we've finally done it. We have achieved (at least partial) success in Iraq. "Yay us!" in the words of quite possibly the ditziest TV character ever written (kudos to anybody who can name her).

So, to recap seven years worth of war-

We went in under the auspices of Bush and his cronies, who touted the idea of supposed weapons of mass destruction owned by the Iraqi government. Since that time, according to CNN, 4,000 American soldiers have died in Iraq, as well as 106,000 Iraqi civilians. Mm-hmm.

Oh, but wait. What is this? We're not actually leaving Iraq. Of course not. We're leaving 50,000 American soldiers behind to help clean up. Well, I suppose that's only fair. We made the mess, we should clean it up. Of course, it would be optimum if we had never made the mess in the beginning, but one can't cry over spilled milk.

So not only are 50,000 American soldiers staying behind, but a bunch of our diplomats will also, to accomplish the goal of, and I quote, "By October 2011...assum[ing] responsibility for training the Iraqi police, a task that will largely be carried out by contractors."


But I'm being cynical. Who knows. Maybe we will be able to get this beautiful country cleaned up in record time. But judging by the fact that most countries we've been at war with are just now coming back, or have been on a slow, hard road to recovery...I wouldn't count on it.

Say hello to "War, Part II- the Aftermath, as we try to clean up what we screwed up, and fail utterly."

Have a nice day.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Victory in Iraq? Eh, Maybe Not

Okay, so I admit it- TheOnion.com isn't the best place one can get their news. Okay, so one could hardly call it news. But nonetheless, I found this hilarious. So, for you, this direct from TheOnion.com-

CAMP SPRINGS, MD—Addressing troops at Andrews Air Force Base Tuesday, President Barack Obama claimed victory in Iraq, saying that formal combat operations in the region would end Aug. 31, and that the United States had emerged from the seven-year war triumphant, kind of.

"For nearly a decade, our mission in Iraq has been to root out those who would choose violence over peace, to create a stable Iraqi government, and to transfer power to an incorruptible civilian police force," Obama said. "And, in a manner of speaking, we sort of did some of that, right? More or less?"

"Granted, this is not the definitive, World War II–like victory most of us expected," Obama continued. "But there's a military triumph in there somewhere, I swear. You just have to look at it from the right angles."

The aftermath of what the president is calling "a success, in a sense, although not really in a traditional sense, per se."

According to the president, the relative victory could be credited to a number of achieved benchmarks, depending upon how strict one's definition of "achieved" is. Obama pointed to the democratic election of an Iraqi parliament currently being held together by a thread; the streets of Iraq being slightly less hellish than they were in 2006; and the fact that women are now, for the most part, free to move around the country so long as they don't make a big production out of it.

Obama also noted that during the war more Iraqi insurgents died than American troops, which, he admitted, isn't necessarily the best way to determine a war's victor, but is nonetheless still preferable to the other way around.

"By the end of this month, victory, to a certain extent, will be ours, and we can finally welcome our troops back home," Obama concluded. "That is unless they are one of the 50,000 U.S. soldiers who will have to stay in the region for the foreseeable future."

Following the president's address, a car bomb ripped through an outdoor market in Baghdad killing eight Iraqis and wounding 32.

Pentagon officials also declared the mission, in a sense, kind of sort of accomplished Tuesday, citing the handful of Iraqi hearts and minds that may have been won over by the U.S. occupancy, and the fact that Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki had not yet been assassinated.

"In cases where we were unable to rebuild infrastructure or quell violent civil unrest, it wasn't for lack of trying," Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said during last Sunday's taping of ABC's This Week. "And trying your best, one could argue, is technically a triumph in and of itself."

"And hey, Saddam Hussein isn't in power anymore," Odierno continued. "So that's something."

With the cessation of combat operations, and the declaration of what sources said couldn't be called a complete and utter failure because to do so would be to admit that the U.S. wasted $750 billion, lost 4,400 troops, and killed 100,000 Iraqi civilians for absolutely nothing, both Democrats and Republicans have attempted to take credit for the quasi-victory.

"President Obama deserves zero praise for this borderline accomplishment," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told reporters. "After all, if it weren't for President Bush ordering the initial invasion of Iraq and making it his central foreign policy initiative, we wouldn't be here right now awkwardly celebrating the muddled outcome of whatever the hell it is we've been doing over there for the past seven years."

Pentagon and White House sources said the American people should expect more wince-inducing victory-if-you-can-call-it-that celebrations 10 or 15 years from now when we kind of, but not really, win in Afghanistan

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"The Immigration Problem"

So with all the controversy surrounding the Arizona immigration law, I thought it was probably high time I said something on the subject. And so, without further ado-

I've noticed that some people seem to have this view that immigration is evil, no matter whether its legal or not. Their thinking is that America is for the Americans, whatever that means. Then we have people who think that "illegal" immigration should be stopped. Then there are still others who think that immigration is fine and all, but once people are here, they should "become American"- whatever weird "American" they're thinking of. Then there are people who are of the opinion we should just let anyone and everyone in, whether they are legal or no.

As for me- well, I'm not really sure. One thing I do know is that, if we completely stopped immigration, our economy would most likely either stagnate or implode completely as cheap labor ceased to come in. However, if we let too many in, we might see either not enough jobs to go around and unemployment would skyrocket, or more jobs being created as labor became cheaper as the workforce expanded.

One thing I do think is a given- the immigration system America currently has needs a lot of work. For one thing, its astronomically expensive. And if anybody can figure out how a Spanish-speaking Mexican national who lives on three bucks a day can get into a country that requires thousands of dollars and the completion of multiple forms (all in English) before they can even have a hope of eventually getting into America legally (within oh, ten years), then that person will officially become a genius in my eyes.

So for starters, it would help immensely if we cut down on how much it cost. Yes, yes, I know- "if they want it enough, they'll pay for it." With what money, pray tell? We expect them to go to the end of a rainbow and nicely ask the leprechaun for his pot of gold?

Now, for illegal immigration- yes, it is a problem. But when one has a problem, it oftentimes helps to trace the problem back to the source. Why is it a problem? If people feel the need to come here illegally, why? I think it can be traced back to some of the above factors, at least some of the illegal immigration. It's too expensive. They can't afford it. What do they have to lose if they try to just cross the border? Deportation? Won't be any worse than the hell-hole they're in at the moment. Length of the process. Once again. What do they have to lose if they try to cross the border immediately?

And so, it is easier to come across illegally.

Now, for those illegals who are motivated by the profits to be gained here- drug dealers, etc. Well, let's see. We've been fighting a "war on drugs" since 1971. Since 2009, we've also been sending money to Mexico to try to help them eradicate the drug problem. Let's see...1971, it's now been almost 40 years since we've started this "war on drugs"?

That means that, in 40 years, we've not only failed to eradicate drug abuse and drug dealers, but the problem has only escalated. In 2003, it was estimated that over 50% of high school seniors were abusing drugs. 20% of 8th graders had tried marijuana. In 2007, 8% of people over 12 had "used" illicit drugs. (This site has an excellent map of drug abuse stats, etc.) According to Wikipedia, in 2005, we had arrested more than 2 million people for drug use.

The "drug war" has failed. Its just wasting money. So stop. Remove the stigma from marijuana, and I do believe we'd see use fall. Yes, people would still use drugs. But it's their body. They can mess with it if they want. And if use fell, we'd see drug dealers trying to get in from Mexico cease trying to get in as much.

Next, obviously our "wall" at the border hasn't managed to keep anything out. As Gary Johnson said- "A 10-foot wall [just] requires an 11-foot ladder." Or, in the case of some of the drug dealers, it just requires a truck with some handy hiding places, and not so much luck as you'd think. Some of the border patrol officers seem more inclined to harass a middle-aged man with his white wife and three teenage children (have a friend that happened to) than the people who might, more logically, be drug dealers. That just shows you the power of a quota.

So here's what we need to do- either hire border patrol officers with more sense, or institute a better system. Oh yeah, and make sure that people who are here illegally can leave, and not detain them as they try to leave, spending lots of money keeping them in jail, because that's just silly. Then, we should streamline the immigration process, and make it so that it is less expensive and takes less time to come here legally.

Anyway. Just my thoughts on this subject.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Cordoba House- Again

So this issue has once again been brought to my attention. Here is a short, probably not-so-sweet, but to the point summary of my position.

I do think it is a bit insensitive of Cordoba to build this so close, especially when they've seen the reaction. However, there are some facts that cannot be disputed. They bought the property, hence they have the right to do whatever they want with it- property rights. They have a religion, and are free to practice it- freedom of religion. They have a right to worship together- freedom of association.

However, I do think one thing needs to be remembered- Cordoba and Imam Rauf did not kill those 3,000 on 9/11. The guys who killed those 3,000 are dead. It's useless to whine about them now. It's over. Can't cry over spilled milk. Yes, what happened was terrible. I condole with the families who lost loved ones- both Muslim and Christian and athiest, and whatever other belief systems may have been represented, because I'm sure the families of those 19 men miss them just as much.

But we also can't forget what has risen out of this. It's killed hundreds of thousands of civilians all over the world. It's divided Americans even more starkly along lines of left and right. It's made Americans so gun-shy they freak over the slightest evidence of a possible terror attack- while the rest of the world laughs at our naive belief that we are the only country that has ever been attacked by a terrorist. We lambast a whole race of people for the actions of 19 men. 19 men attacked us. There are roughly 1.5 billion Muslims on the globe, and the number is rising. You do the math. 19 is such a tiny percentage, I'm pretty sure you'd have to put it in decimals. Even if you put in the couple hundred estimated insurgents involved in al Qaeda, the Taliban, and like groups (and that membership is growing too...I wonder why?), you've still got a small, small percentage. That's like saying that, out of the couple billion Christians in the globe, all of them should be treated with as much disdain as we all treat Westboro Baptist Church. That doesn't make sense, and nor does ostracizing and behaving with such venom towards an entire sect of people.

To summarize- yes, I feel for the families of the 9/11 victims. I do think Cordoba should look into moving this community center/mosque somewhere else. But in the meantime- Constitutionally, they can do whatever they want with the property. And I think, that if this does begin to happen, and happens, we should let it be. Move past it. We're all adults. Osama bin Laden would love nothing more than for us all to jump on Muslims and demand they shut down their mosques. Do you know how much of a PR field-day that would be for him? His recruiting levels would go up immediately! The evil Americans, denying what they profess to believe in, and repressing the poor, beleaguered Muslims. Yes, we may look at that and think that he's misrepresenting the situation...but we know about the media, and we know that's exactly what bin Laden and his ilk will say.

Let's not give him the satisfaction.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Conquest through Corporation

So I had a thought last night- for the last ten years, our country has been embroiled in two conflicts to quash out radical Islam. Recently, we've also had problems with Iran (she's radical too, apparently). However, what we need isn't wars.

We just need to push Walmart and McDonalds to settle down there, make themselves at home, and open up shop. There's nothing like Western fast food and convenience to quash those pesky concerns about religious and national identity. It's worked great in other countries, anyway.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Random Musing on Hypocrisy

It will never cease to amaze me how people who don't want government in their wallets, their churches, their homes, their gas station, their workplace, their hospital, or their local stores, will nevertheless push for government to get involved in the bedrooms and bodies of Americans everywhere.