Thursday, July 31, 2008

What Do You Mean “God is Sovereign”? Four Options

What Do You Mean “God is Sovereign”? Four Options

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A 23 Year Old Combat Veteran from Iraq Speaks

I've known this young man since he was a teenager in our youth group. When he finished high school in 2003, knowing our country was at war, he joined the Army. The Army, as it often promises, allowed him to see the world. It also showed him other things. Below, with his permission, I am sharing his thoughts in his own words completely unedited.

United State of Failure

One soldier’s point of view

As I write this, it is January 8th of 2007, eight days into another year in the history of the world. Here in Baumholder, Germany where my base is located children are playing soccer down at the soccer field. Soldiers are eating lunch over in the chow hall. Back in the States men are just now headed out to work, teenagers are off to school. Somewhere a baby is being born in a hospital, and somewhere in Iraq a soldier is breathing his last breath as an Iraqi whispers “Allah Akbar” to himself and sneaks off unseen. The soldier’s family will get word in a few days of their loved one’s demise, and will set off on the long road of continuing their life wondering what could have been if he had never joined the Army, if the war had never started. But even while that happens, life will continue on in America and in the rest of the world, the children will continue playing soccer and the men will continue to go to work, the teenagers continuing to go to school..and over time that soldier will be forgotten by all but a few that were close to him. And why not? To the average American, to whom the war is distant and unknown, who sports a yellow ribbon magnet on their car and skips past the second or third page of their morning paper where the events in Iraq are listed in as little detail as possible, the war is happily kept out of sight, the growing number of dead young Americans being delagated down to just that, a number. They dont want to see the blown apart young men, to hear their screams as the medic works to save their lives. They are perfectly content to not share in the choices these soldiers make each day, to kill or not to kill..its not their job, its not their life. If given a blank map, most could not point out the nation that the officials they elected into power are sending thousands of young men that will never make it home. So why should they care about one? The answer is simple: they dont. Of course if brought up into a conversation about it they will reply “Aw thats awful” or “ Shucks thats terrible” but they will never grasp the whole picture..ever..and they would not want to if they could. It’s simpler just to call him a hero and go on with the day. Any serious opposition to the war is met with fierce comments of being unpatriotic. The American tradition of dissent and questioning authority has been replaced with an attitude of “Just shut up and go with it”. Protesters like Cindy Sheehan are seen as upstarts and troublemakers. America is quickly switching from “The land of the free” to “The land where you are free to beleive anything we tell you”.
Usually, its the young people of this nation that rise up, that are the most vocal in questioning the powers that be, but the youth of America today have been dumbed down by a school system that crushes individualism and protest to power. High schools in America today more resemble prisons than places of education, with police patrolling the hallways and metal detectors at the gates, random classroom and locker searches, and a general attitude of distrust among the teachers towards the students. It works great for the government; if you teach the population early to keep their heads down and their mouths shut, its a lot easier to get them to accept whatever you feed them when they get older. And with one of the worst education systems in the developed world, they wont have the intelligence to fight back if they wanted to. Never mind what we are doing to the future of our country, Just as long as the few privately educated rich continue to hold power over the progressivly dumbed down population.
Proof of this lies in how quickly America bought into the war-fervor that drove us to Iraq. Most people, not even knowing where Iraq was in the world, and without the education and intelligence to find out answers for themselves, were more than willing to allow themselves to beleive Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, so willing that they looked past the rest of the world telling us they werent quite sure, and jumped right into the worst armed conflict this nation has seen since Vietnam
I’ve been to Iraq. I’ve seen the hatred on the faces of Iraqis as I walked past. I’ve seen innocent people die because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time or just because a soldier felt like shooting somebody because he was bored while on guard. I’ve seen the Iraqi army tie a man upside down and beat the soles of his feet with a bicycle chain because they suspected he might be an insurgent, I’ve seen them hold a blindfolded man down and stick a knife to his neck to make him beleive they were going to cut off his head for the same reason. I remember our rules of engagement; if you see someone looking at you for more than 10 seconds kill them because they might be a spotter, if you see someone on a cellphone kill them because they might be coordinating with insurgents, if you see someone on top of a roof looking at you kill them because they might be a sniper preparing to take a shot, if a man is digging a hole in the ground kill him because he might be planting an IED. Somewhere in the midst of all of this I started wondering to myself, what freedom are we fighting for? The man shooting at me is not shooting at me because he is a member of some terrorist organization, he is shooting at me because of the freedom I’ve denied him, because of the friends and family killed for the most innocent of things. Iraq has turned into a nation fighting to be free of those that are fighting to free them.
Who then are we trying to defeat? If every Iraqi we kill spawns another brother or father or son that picks up a rifle and starts fighting against us as well, then when does the victory come?
We are no longer viewed, at least from my perspective, as liberators and helpers to the common Iraqi. We are viewed as invaders and occupiers,and just as no American would ever put down his rifle if a foreign power invaded America, neither will the Iraqi who’s life is worse now than it was before we came put down his rifle until we are gone. It has become a battle of will, and unlike the common American who lives in his comfortable little box with his MTV and his SUV and McDonalds who will personally lose nothing if America is defeated in Iraq, the average Iraqi lives with the violence and fear and is affected by every event that the American looks past while reading the morning paper, and has a lot more at stake.
One lesson America has to learn from this is that there is no nation or people on this earth that we are superior to..that an American life is worth no more than an Iraqi’s. Its nothing for an American to hear that 30 or 40 Iraqi’s died in a carbomb in Bagdad and give it no extra though, but when they hear that 10 Americans were killed in one attack it seems to hit them harder. If Americans put no concern into Iraqi dead, then what concern do we put into bringing Iraqi peace?
The day seems to be getting closer where America will have to realize what the rest of the world already does..We have failed. We have failed the Iraqi people. We have failed our soldiers. We have failed the children in our schools. We have failed at being the great nation that we imagine ourselves to be. But then again, we dont have a very good track record when it comes to listening to the world, do we?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Torture Paper Trail

I've always liked Eugene Robinson. Not only is he a Washington Post columist and MSNBC talking head, he's a native of Orangeburg, SC.

When other talking heads turn to shouting, he keeps his cool. I like his style.

He begins his piece in the Washington Post today like this:

I still find it hard to believe that George W. Bush, to his eternal shame and our nation's great discredit, made torture a matter of hair-splitting, legalistic debate at the highest levels of the U.S. government. But that's precisely what he did.

He finishes like so:

Barack Obama has stood consistently against torture. John McCain, who was tortured himself as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, has denounced torture as well -- and, although he voted against restraining the CIA with the same no-exceptions policy that now applies to military interrogators, he has been forthright in saying that waterboarding is torture, and thus illegal. On Inauguration Day, whoever wins the presidency, this awful interlude will end.

A clear and urgent duty of the next president will be to investigate the Bush administration's torture policy and give Americans a full accounting of what was done in our name. It's astounding that we need some kind of truth commission in the United States of America, but we do. Only when we learn the full story of what happened will we be able to confidently promise, to ourselves and to a world that looks to this country for moral leadership: Never again.

read more digg story

The way we treat our fellow human being, enemy or friend, reflects the true core of our soul.

Did not Jesus teach us in Matthew 5:

43 "You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don't even the Gentiles do the same?

These words were given not for intellectual, theological discourse, but for a guide for how we are to view our enemy. Our enemy is a human being, just like us, who's sin can cause us harm and cause us to fear. Jesus knew that our sinful nature causes us to mirror the sin of our enemy so he calls on us to be and do exactly the opposite.

Our country tortures the enemy. We have become what we say we abhor.

I Used to Like to Play with Dominoes

I used to like to play with dominoes. Don’t misunderstand me. I didn’t say I liked playing dominoes. That game was no fun at all. I liked lining the dominoes up and then tipping the one on the end so I could watch the whole rest of the line topple over. I even got pretty good at making fairly intricate patterns for an elementary aged kid. All of the time it took to space them out and arrange them was worth the couple of seconds I got when I was finished. I liked the sight and I liked the sound.

I don’t like dominoes anymore.

Sunday afternoon, between 4:30 and 7:00 p.m., the weather was kind of hot but pretty. No storms, no wind. On a quiet, still day, a large piece of an oak tree too high up to notice being dead decided to let go and come crashing to the ground. It contacted the power service running from the pole at the street to the house and pulled everything off of the house. As bad as that was, I had no idea that it was only the first domino to fall. The noise had only begun.

The call to the power company was responded to almost immediately but the new he had was not so good. There was not a thing that they could do until a contractor had come to rebuild the service on the house. Fortunately, I know some electrical contractors who were on site first thing Monday morning and completed their work before noon. I thought we were well on our way to having power back on by supper time.

But wait. The city building inspector has to approve the contractor’s work before the power company can do their part. Inspection was completed with time to still hope for power Monday afternoon. But apparently the inspector waits to fax his confirmations at the end of the day. So…another night without power…a night without air conditioning.

First thing this morning, 7:00 a.m. sharp, the power company was here to execute their work to restore power to the house. An hour later, lights appear, clocks blink and refrigerator motors whine to life. Thanks Mr. Power Company Man!

But wait.

Why isn’t the air conditioner starting up? Something in the surge has messed it up. A call to the repairmen first thing returns a promise to be out before the end of the day.

Oh yeah.

Tied up with the bundle of lines coming from the street was the coax for the cable. A call to the cable company at lunch time has a man here a couple of hours later.

As fate would have it, everyone arrives at the same time. Nobody’s job appears to be that simple. They are under the house, on the house, in the house, too.

Did I ever tell you I used to like to play with dominoes?

Dunno Whether to Laugh or Cry

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thinking About a Friend's Observation

I've got a buddy from seminary who lives and ministers in a town and a church situation similar to my own. I keep an eye on what rattles his cage over at Momo's Musings.

It has amused me in the past that, though he links to Blog Itch, he does so with a bit of a caveat.

Momo's most recent musing is around the existence of his blog. A line or two around the content of Blog Itch, along with the fact that his caveat is more pronounced, has caused me to go back and review my posts.

Even before I read Momo's post, I have found myself wondering why I've felt so driven to post more on politics than anything else lately. Of course, I've enjoyed observing the push and pull of political ideas since the Carter/Reagan years so this year just continues that little avocation of mine. Some might be surprised that I was a McCain supporter in 2000. Yeah! Even over Gore! I'll give you a minute to get over the shock. That said, I don't believe the McCain of 2000 would vote for the McCain of 2008 or vice versa. The differences between the two candidacies are stunning to me.

I've been reviewing the archive and reflecting over the content with a large, regularly refilled, mug of hot, black coffee this morning. Here is my evaluation:

Seven of the 41 posts to date in July relate to things other than politics or policy.

* Our Youth at MFuge
* A Musical Score for Disease
* Church Leaders: Don't Miss this Web Article
* Litany/Call to Worship for This Sunday
* A Classic IMonk Quote: On Consumer Christianity
* Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection
* This Guy Must Have Peeking In Our Windows

I think it's worth asking if the other 34 posts have anything in common within the broad scope of politics and policy.

Let's eliminate the four jabs at McCain as a canditate:
* McCain Needs a Map: There is No 'Iraq-Pakistan Bor...
* John McCain Still Can't "Get Online" By Himself
* Hypocritical: McCain Blasts Congress For Taking A ...
* McCain promises to balance budget -- in 4 years!

Let's omit the four posts of political ads and/or speech excerpts:
* Jousting
* He Finally Said Something I Agree With...
* DNC Web Ad on McCain and Iraq
* Check Out This New Radio Spot

Let's set aside the post involving media process:
* McCain’s Victory Dividend

If I count right, and I can't swear that I have despite the excellent coffee I'm enjoying, we are left with 25 posts. Is there a common theme?

Though the context is certainly American party politics, the common theme is not American party politics. The common theme is justice.

If Bush administration and McCain campaign of 2008 policies were being pursued by members of the Democratic Party, I would be equally appalled. It's not about "my team" winning. It's simply about this. In order to preserve "truth, justice and the American way," our government is throwing all three out the window.

I guess my evaluation is this: I think I am posting about theology.

Two of the most prominent words on the gospels are "Fear not!" But we say, "You don't live in 21st century America, God! We have a lot to fear! So much so that we ignore your Son's example. We'll do whatever it takes to 'protect' ourselves, even start living like 'goats' so that I can live to call ourselves Your sheep."

Restaurants Skimming Their Servers Tips

By Federal Law restaurants can pay servers as little as $2.13 an hour. Our tips are supposed to bring those wages up to minimum wage and at a good restaurant well beyond that. But, lets face the facts here. Most servers are barely making it. They mostly work at diners and low priced restaurants and are hoping to just get a 10% tip and are lucky if they get a 15%-20% tip. Like me most people leave the tip on the charge slip and just add it to the total bill at the end of the meal. But, if you do this your server may not see that total tip.

read more | digg story

Friday, July 25, 2008

Diplomats Barred From Obama’s Berlin Speech But Not McCain’s

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Embassy in Berlin “instructed Foreign Service personnel stationed there not to attend Sen. Barack Obama’s [D-IL] public rally” in Tiergarten Park because the event is “‘partisan political activity‘ prohibited under its regulations for those serving overseas.”

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Our Youth at MFuge

Crimes and Misdemeanors

"The question of criminal liability for Bush-administration officials has since been in the news ... We have tried to sketch out a map of who did what and when, with links to the evidence that is public and notes about what we may learn from investigations that are still pending."

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

An Earlier President's View of Fear

Rummaging through American history, Todd Gitlin stumbled on this, from Franklin Roosevelt's 9th State of the Union Address, January 6, 1942:

If any of our enemies, from Europe or from Asia, attempt long-range raids by "suicide" squadrons of bombing planes, they will do so only in the hope of terrorizing our people and disrupting our morale. Our people are not afraid of that. We know that we may have to pay a heavy price for freedom. We will pay this price with a will. Whatever the price, it is a thousand times worth it. No matter what our enemies, in their desperation, may attempt to do to us- we will say, as the people of London have said, "We can take it." And what's more we can give it back and we will give it back--with compound interest.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

America's Middle Class Can't Take Much More Punishment

Whether we like it or not, America is in the midst of revolutionary economic changes that are crushing the middle class. Employment, even dual employment, is no longer any kind of barrier against poverty. Not economic discomfort, mind you, but actual poverty. Meaning, having less than you need to eat and live in heated shelter -- forgetting entirely about health care and dentistry, which has long ceased to be considered an automatic component of American middle-class life.

read more | digg story

Monday, July 21, 2008

McCain Needs a Map: There is No 'Iraq-Pakistan Border'

Today on Good Morning America, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) refused to call the situation in Afghanistan “precarious and urgent,” but admitted that “We have a lot of work to do.” He warned of a “very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq-Pakistan border.” Of course, Iraq is nowhere near Pakistan.

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Nine Reasons to Investigate War Crimes Now

Retired General Antonio Taguba, the officer who led the Army's investigation into Abu Ghraib, recently wrote in the preface to the new report, Broken laws, Broken Lives:"There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

My Favorite Political Cartoons of the Week

'It's gonna be a bloodbath,' fallen soldier told father

Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling suspected his days were numbered last week, while he and his band of brothers in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team prepared for a mission near Wanat, Afghanistan.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

A Musical Score for Disease

When set to music, colon cancer sounds kind of eerie. That's the finding of Gil Alterovitz, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School who is developing a computer program that translates protein and gene expression into music. In his acoustic translation, harmony represents good health, and discord indicates disease.

read more | digg story

Thursday, July 17, 2008

An Interesting Presidential Quote

A conservative is a man who sits and thinks, mostly sits.
Woodrow Wilson 28th president of US (1856 - 1924)

Deconstructing George

The two oil men in the White House – supposed energy experts – brought Americans the highest energy prices ever. Just look.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

John McCain Still Can't "Get Online" By Himself

Ladies and gentlement the candidate of so much experience he has no experience with the modern world.

read more | digg story

Bush Homeland Security Caught Offering Access for Donations

The Sunday Times reports Stephen Payne, a Bush pioneer and a political appointee to the Homeland Security Advisory Council, was caught on tape offering access to key members of the Bush administration inner circle in exchange for “six-figure donations to the private library being set up to commemorate Bush’s presidency.”

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Deadly Good Ol' Boy Network: KBR

At a Senate hearing on July 11th, 2008, the mothers of two electrocuted soldiers placed the blame for their sons' deaths with KBR, the world's largest defense services company. Two former KBR electricians described mismanagement, inadequate equipment, and a "good old boy network" that puts soldiers' lives at risk.


Friday, July 11, 2008

McCain slams Obama for missing a vote he also missed

“This is the same organization that I voted to condemn as a terrorist organization when an amendment was on the floor of the United States Senate. Senator Obama refused to vote.” The problem with the critique? McCain also missed that vote on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment on September 26, 2007

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10 Reasons Why Your Economic Pain Isn’t ‘Mental'

Yesterday, Phil Gramm backtracked from his candid view that America has “become a nation of whiners.” (Watch the video of his original comment.) But he refused to back down from his assertion that Americans and the media are to blame for the current economy. “I said we are in a mental recession.

read more | digg story

He Finally Said Something I Agree With...

Hey Preachermom: Get a load of this ...

Capitalism's Reality Check

Since the Reagan years, free-market cliches have passed for sophisticated economic analysis. But in the current crisis, these ideas are falling, one by one, as even conservatives recognize that capitalism is ailing. What's striking is that conservatives who revere capitalism are offering their own criticisms of the way the system is working.

read more | digg story

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

We're Going to Bed in a Country Very Different From the One We Woke Up In

The Fourth Amendment died by "lethal injection" today when the Senate passed FISA legislation with telecom immunity by a vote of 69 - 28. The largest coverup of felonious acts by the executive branch have been covered up by a public act of the legislative branch.

Shame on you, Barack Obama, for participating in this trampling of civil liberties.

Yesterday, constitutional law expert, Johnathan Turley said, "There's not an ounce of 'public interest' in this legislation...The fact is, the 'fix' is in."

DNC Web Ad on McCain and Iraq

HT: Think Progress

Litany/Call to Worship for This Sunday

Leader: He is here: the One who forms the mountains, creates the wind, and reveals His thoughts to man.
People: Yahweh, the God of Hosts, is His name.
Leader: He is here: The One who made the Pleiades and Orion, who turns darkness into dawn and darkens day into night,
People: Yahweh, the God of Hosts, is His name.
Leader: He is here: The One who builds His upper chambers in the heavens and lays the foundation of His vault on the earth. He summons the waters of the sea and pours them out on the face of the earth.
People: Yahweh, the God of Hosts, is His name.

Amos 4:13, 5:8, 9:6 HCSV

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Obama Energy Ad

Hypocritical: McCain Blasts Congress For Taking A Week Off

This morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) appeared on MSNBC and blasted Congress for being lazy. He said that instead of taking a Fourth of July recess, senators should have stuck around and passed a housing bill. McCain now ranks as the #1 most absent senator of the 110th Congress, having missed 61.8 percent of the votes.

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A Classic IMonk Quote: On Consumer Christianity

Evangelicals have connected discipleship and buying stuff in a way that is completely alien to the New Testament. If today’s Christians were around in the Biblical era there would be ads for the Septuagint with endorsements from famous Jews and announcements of new “Glow in the Dark” covers.

see the full context here.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Leaked Report: Biofuels Are the Cause of Global Food Crisis

Biofuels have forced global food prices up by 75% — far more than previously estimated — according to a confidential World Bank report obtained by the Guardian. The damning unpublished assessment is based on the most detailed analysis of the crisis so far, carried out by an internationally-respected economist at global financial body.

read more | digg story

Some Folks Need a Litte Perspective...

McCain’s Victory Dividend

If the mainstream media won't unpack McCain's economic statement, the blogosphere will.I've been waiting all day to hear similar questions from CNN, MSNBC, (forget Fox) and others regarding some of the bizarre claims but have yet to catch anyone challenging him. I'll "stay tuned".

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The Iraq War Was About Oil, All Along

There you have it. After a long exile, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP are back in Iraq. And on the wings of no-bid contracts -- that's right, sweetheart deals like those given Halliburton, KBR and Blackwater. The kind of deals you get only if you have friends in high places. And these war profiteers have friends in very high places.

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McCain promises to balance budget -- in 4 years!

I need my dear Republican friends who support McCain to click read more for Politico's full story and then help me to understand the thinking behind these proposals. Here is the sentence that stuns me the most:

The McCain administration would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq
and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing
the deficit.
He has said he would keep troops there like in Germany and Korea. Iraq and Afghanistan are NOT Germany and Korea. Troops in those countries are going to be under fire as long as they're there. It's going to cost alot to defend themselves.

The full story:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) plans to promise on Monday that he will balance the federal budget by the end of his first term by curbing wasteful spending and overhauling entitlement programs, including Social Security, his advisers told Politico. The vow to take on Social Security puts McCain in a political danger zone that thwarted President Bush..

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Kristof Calls for a National Truth Commission on Torture

Many are hoping that war crimes indictments will someday be issued against members of the Bush administration, including Bush and Cheney. While that is unlikely, something akin to the process that helped South Africa begin to heal after the atrocities of apartheid might turn out to be a real possibility.

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Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection

The writing on an ancient stone may contribute to a re-evaluation of popular and scholarly views of Jesus.

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

10 Years Ago, Bin Laden Said Barrel of Oil Should Cost $144

In a 1998 interview, Osama bin Laden said that the real price of a barrel of oil should be $144. Bush’s policies delivered it for him. The Bush administration’s catastrophic decision to invade Iraq, sink the nation into debt to pay for that war, and consequently, weaken the dollar have all caused oil prices to soar astronomically.

read more | digg story

This Guy Must Have Peeking In Our Windows

Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
- Arnold Lobel

Friday, July 04, 2008

Free Yet Chained...

In Their Boots

In Their Boots is a stunning new effort at spreading information about the realities facing veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The group produces a live webcast hosted by a veteran of the Marine Corps. Though their first live webcast on July 2 showed had some glitches common to this new medium, the moving personal story and and quality of interviews and information presented overcame the occasional nervous slip ups by the host and tech crew.

In Their Boots is the product of Brave New Foundation. The organization's president, Robert Greenwald, produced several documentaries: "Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers" (2006), “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” (2005), and "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism" (2004). The first webcast of In Their Boots is decidedly non-political, however. Quoting from the transcript: "This is about solutions not blame."

Go to their website to view their first broadcast and teasers for upcoming episodes. I also encourage you to follow the links, especially to their blog and their solutions page.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Do You Struggle with Low Blood Pressure?

If this doesn't elevate it, ask Dr. Frankenstein to insert the heart he obviously forgot.