Friday, August 29, 2008

Finally - An Interesting Turn of Events in Politics

This past Friday John McCain picked the Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin to be his Vice President, and I think, turned the tide of the race and made it a whole heck of a lot more interesting.

First to add a caveat and be honest, I hate politics and am very disillusioned by it (thanks to my stellar UVA education). Whether it is broken, needs fixed, etc, etc, doesn't really matter, because in the end the people in power are going to do what they want to do and the little person doesn't really have much say, and that won't change ("Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely").

That being said, I also dislike both candidates for this election. I don't care for either of them and wasn't excited by either candidate. Obama is interesting in the fact that it is historic to have an African-American man run for president (thank you David Palmer). But his message of "change" is just empty to me because I don't really like the kind of change he is proposing AND it's not like he will get half of the things "changed" that he wants to. Universal health care does sound great (with many pitfalls here and there), but I will be shocked if this country ever gets to that point, because of the kind of economic system that we run and exist in (plus, do we really want our government running the health care system?). A complete reduction of American forces in Iraq would be a huge mistake, in my opinion, and further destabilize a region known for its instability. And I don't really think he would help the economy.

I don't know what McCain plans to do either - I didn't want him to be the Republican nominee (I am a Mike Huckabee fan). Plus I didn't think he stood a chance to win when he won the nomination in April, unless he picked the Alaska governor for his VP, this lady who was making waves out there - only then did I think that maybe he would have a chance.

And he flippin' did. Seriously??

That is guts. To pick a pretty unknown candidate who has one of the most dramatic politcal stories in recent history takes guts. She is totally unknown to Washington and the national scene. The media is of course scrambling and looking for every little thing they can find about Palin and her family and stories are popping up every hour, but I don't care. McCain picking Palin as his VP made me interested again in this election and I might actually watch her speech tonight on network TV, something I have not done this entire election. And the fact that people are saying she doesn't have enough experience to be a VP, I find hilarious, since Obama has, until this pick, been touting the fact that he hasn't been taken by Washington because of his "newcomer" status. (And don't people find it funny that now both camps have basically switched attacks, with the Democrats now crying that Palin doesn't have enough experience, while the Republicans say that she does, when just a week before it was the opposite with Republicans saying that Obama doesn't have enough experience and the Democrats saying that he does?)

Anyway, I give McCain credit for a brilliant pick and for making me excited about this election. I am mightily impressed, which is very hard for politicians to do for me these days.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Guns of August - Literally

"History is a vast early warning system" ~ Norman Cousins

This is one of my favorite quotes because of the truth that it belies. History is a vast early warning system and it would ease my worries and fears if I truly believed that the people who were in power understood this concept. But the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia this month, coupled with the signing of a missile defense treaty by Poland and the United States yesterday, has me questioning if we are going to see the eruption of another European war, if not another World War.

Why would I think that the conflict between Georgia and Russia could erupt into something broader and more deadly, especially with a ceasefire in place that is supposed to go into effect tomorrow? Because of a little book I read ages ago called The Guns of August by Barbra Tuchman, which is about the start of the First World War. This book succintly relates the story of how escalating tensions, state and ethnic nationalistic pride, and state alliances, all combined to begin "The Great War", who's affect we still see in events today. The stubborn attitudes of the leaders in power resulted in one of the most horrifying events in history and wiped out a generation of people - all because of...what? Was it for freedom? Was it to spread "democracy"? It was for territorial gains, for world supremacy, for dominion of one state over another, or the survival of a state against the forces of other states.

This very thing is what I see in this conflict between Georgia and Russia - and Georgia's ties to the West are a problem. Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia is so eerily similar to Austria's invasion of Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Fernindand, and Russia's response is practically the same - they went to the aid of Serb, just as they went to "aid" the South Ossetians. However, in this, I fear the South Ossetians and the other separtist region, Abkhazia, will be getting more than they bargained for. For there is also the history of the Cold War to contend with and Russia's history of invading and staying in territories - Chechnya, anyone? And Russia's response to these conflicts are brutal and without mercy.

Our eyes have long been focused on Iraq and most have forgotten about Afghanistan, though we still have troops there and the conflict in that region continues to escalate. We have been consumed, since the fall of the USSR, with the MidEast and the conflicts there, turning our eyes away from Russia and letting it basically consume itself with corruption and power. Sure there have been news reports here and there, but I believe the recent events in Eastern Europe are a genuine cause for concern and need to be dealt with seriously. And that also scares me - the almost flippant attitude that the West, and particularly, the United States, has toward this. There is a lot at stake - Russian-Chinese ties are pretty strong and yet China has embraced free market capitalism with a vengenance, tying it extremely close to the United States - a lot of tension could be caused. Russia's willingness to place weapons into the hands of states and organizations who really shouldn't have them is also a concern. There are many more factors that give me cause for concern and they are all interwoven into a tangled web of economics and state politics.

Ultimately, I hope my concern is baseless and the conflict will go away and we all can resume our obsession with the next addition to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's multicultural family. But till then, I will be educating myself and watching this conflict with much interest - I can only hope our leaders will do the same.

Some links to other stories from different newsites:

BBC Coverage

ABC News Coverage

Yahoo News Coverage

Another BBC story...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Beautiful little reflection piece...

I came across this little reflection piece today and really, really liked it. It speaks to the classical music heart that lives within me and also sort of puts into words some of my own thoughts and reflections of what it is to have life in Christ.

Friday, August 1, 2008

America's Best Dance Crew

If you don't know about this show, you need to watch it. Click the videos below to see what I am talking about...

My Heroes this week...

Every day there are people who I interact with in some way or another that inspire me and I look to them for encouragement and inspiration in my own life. I thought I would share my thoughts about a few of those people today.

Of late, one of these people has been a tiny baby who is fighting the hardest battle of her life. Little Olive Webster is such an inspiration to me, which is fitting since her parents are two of the most awesome people in this world that I know. But this little girl has gone through so many hard battles already and she does not give up. Each new challenge is met with the determination and stubbornness of a child, and she has conquered each new thing with such tenacity. I am excited to see this little girl grow up, because she is going to be one special person. She is so beautiful already and has inspired so many people with her strength - she is definitely one of my heroes these days.

A slightly different hero that I have this week, as of last night, is skateboarder Danny Way. This guy is unreal. To preface - I love the X Games. It is a competition in which people push themselves to insane limits and do the most amazing things - it is unbelievable what those guys can do. And one of my favorite events at the X Games is the Big Air competition in which these insane skateboarders stand on top of a 40ft drop, ride down the drop, make a huge leap from the drop into the ramp, drop in to the ramp, fly up to around 20ft off the ramp, do a trick, and then hopefully land it. It is ridiculous. You could not pay me a million dollars to even stand at the top of that drop-in. Last year, one of the guys, Jake Brown, had one of the "gnarliest" slams in the X Games history - he should have died. Instead, after lying still for like 15 minutes, he got up and walked away from it!

Well this year, Danny Way was the guy with the scariest fall. His fall was almost like Jake's, in that he fell as he was coming down from flying up 20ft off the ramp. He almost certainly broke his foot or ankle on the way down and probably broke some other part of his body. But the craziest thing is that after this wicked fall, not only does he get up and limp off the ramp, HE GOES BACK AND DOES IT AGAIN! AND HE LANDS IT!! I could not believe my eyes and I still cannot believe it today. He finished all of his runs and ended up coming in second in the competition (because his best friend and main competitor did an insane trick and landed it). How he finished the competition, I do not know. It was so unbelievable to watch this man push his body beyond limits that a body is not supposed to go past. His performance is a living testament to the strength of willpower.

There are many other people who throughout the week inspire and encourage me. I think that is one of the beautiful things about being in relationship with people - there are heroes and inspirations anywhere and everywhere you look and being able to recognize that is one of the greatest gifts that God has given me.