Photo by Wikipedia user Martin Falbisoner
The political news in Washington this week has been all about the possibility of a federal government shutdown next week, provided that Congress fails to pass a continuing resolution needed to fund government operations. Normally, such a major news story might prompt me to analyze the situation here, but I have decided not to, and the reason is simple: I’m not bothered.
In the United States, the usual phrase for such an emotion would be, “I don’t care,” or less artfully, “I don’t give a crap”, or a similar phrase that adds in words I typically don’t use in my writing. (I am trying to keep Church & State at least somewhat family friendly.) Yet, none of these American phrases has quite the same meaning as, “I’m not bothered.” Continue reading
Photo by Flickr user Flickmor
When we recently began a study of the book of Esther at my church, our pastor attempted to make a connection between his audience and the characters in the story by using a couple of rhetorical questions. First, he asked us if we could identify with living in the capitol city of the world’s superpower. Since our church is located just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the answer was obviously “yes”. Second, he asked if we could identify with being a persecuted religious minority, to which there were several nodded heads and muted grunts of agreement.
Except for me, of course. Sitting there in my seat, I said, “No.” It wasn’t loud enough for anyone but my husband to hear, but still I said it. Why? Because as a member of an evangelical Christian church in America, I do not feel like a persecuted religious minority: not even close. Continue reading
Official Iranian government photo of President Hassan Rouhani
Word on the street is that the White House is trying to decide whether or not to arrange a brief meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of this week’s annual parade of world leaders at the UN General Assembly. Such a tête-à-tête is common at large international gatherings, but not when the two countries in question are Iran and the United States. When it comes to this bilateral relationship, a simple handshake would be enough to grab headlines around the world.
American politicians have avoided shaking hands with their Iranian counterparts since 1979, not out of some odd “germophobic” impulse, but due to the official severing of diplomatic relations. This break technically occurred in 1980, although the situation had taken an immediate turn for the worse with the 1979 Iranian Revolution and hostage taking at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. In the more than thirty years since that point, politicians in both countries have come and gone, but none have been able to satisfy the demands of the other side, and the icy relations have continued. Continue reading
Federal Reserve Vice Chairwoman Janet Yellen speaks at an International Monetary Fund event. IMF photo via Flickr
Janet Yellen is about to become the most powerful female in U.S. political history, and most Americans have never heard of her.
Granted, we’ve had women in positions of political power before this point. There have been three female secretaries of state – Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton – each of whom was fourth in the line of presidential succession. Our two female vice presidential nominees, Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin, ended up losing. One woman, also Hillary Clinton, came very close to gaining the presidential nomination of a major political party.
Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan have all been members of the Supreme Court. You could also make the case that some First Ladies, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton (again), held enormous power through their influence over the president. Nancy Pelosi has served as Speaker of the House of Representatives, placing her second in the line of presidential succession, arguably the highest ranking achieved by a woman in America’s political system. Continue reading
Arctic sea ice is shown in this NOAA image.
Exactly how much ice is there in the Arctic Ocean?
This may seem to be a fairly straightforward question, but it is amazing how complicated something can become once the media and politicians get involved. Take, for example, the recent announcement by the National Snow and Ice Data Center that the amount of sea ice in the Arctic (that’s the one at the North Pole) was 30% greater in August 2013 than it was in August 2012.
Normally, this would be considered a rather mundane fact, kind of like statistics on the amount of annual rainfall in Reno, NV. (No offense, Reno!) It may be interesting for some meteorologists – whose sole purpose in life is to tell us whether or not it is going to rain and to look good on T.V. – but not for the general populace. (No offense, meteorologists!) Continue reading
The Statue of Liberty welcomes immigrants to New York City and the United States.
Right now, you are probably attempting to guess just how I am going to favorably compare Heaven to America. Which aspect of American society am I going to say is too sinful, too unfair, or too degraded to measure up? Or could I perhaps be going a more ironic route, venting my frustration about the current trends of reality television, blood-constricting pants, or “twerking” that I happen to believe will not be present in the great beyond?
Well, let me first say that this is not a plea for my life to be free of Miley Cyrus: a Google Chrome extension has already been created that will go a long way toward achieving that goal. Neither am I going to be complaining about the uptick in gay marriages, the inability of any of our politicians to get along with the other children in the sandbox, or the state of the roads in Michigan (which are paved with anything but gold). No, what I intend to talk about is immigration. Continue reading
The Southeastern Conference and Big Ten Conference logos are both trademarks of their respective owners. They are part of the Wikimedia Creative Commons collection and are used here for commentary purposes only.
My readers are most likely familiar with the television show Mythbusters, which takes a claim that is generally believed to be true (or at least intensely debated) and puts it to the test. Today, I am going to do something similar, only with less explosions. I am going to examine a claim that is often repeated in the world of college football fanatics: that the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has the best teams and/or is the best performing conference.
Full disclosure here: I grew up in the Midwest and am a fan of the BIG 10 conference. My particular loyalty is to The Ohio State University, but I also want to see the conference do well as a whole. Whether in its 10, 11, 12, or 14 team form, I would put its history, traditions, and fan loyalty second to none. Thus, it is not with complete happiness that I have witnessed this ever increasing SEC superiority complex.
Granted, the SEC is a great conference in its own right. Its fans are equally rabid and its traditions equally hallowed. Had I grown up in SEC land, I’m sure I would be just as ardent a supporter of that conference as I am of the BIG 10, which is why I am so thankful that God did not assign me to that fate. Continue reading
The maneki-neko (“beckoning cat”) is thought to bring good luck in Japan. Photo by Kok Leng Yeo
Have you been suffering recently from friggatriskaidekaphobia? Or perhaps I should refer to it as paraskevidekatriaphobia, the other name by which it is commonly known? Of course, in this case, the word “commonly” means “those who spend too much time reading Wikipedia”, which I’m sorry to say includes myself.
For those who lead a more balanced life when it comes to Internet usage, I can tell you that both terms refer to the fear of Friday the 13th, that most unlucky of days. Have you ever wondered why this day is considered to be unlucky? I did, which was why I looked it up on Wikipedia, and here is what I discovered. Continue reading
There’s plenty of space to spare between the United States and Russia. White House photo by Pete Souza
A funny thing happened when I opened my copy of the New York Times today. Well, actually, that’s not quite true: I, like so many Americans, rarely buy a printed version of the Times or any other newspaper. Instead, I squeeze what I can out of the handful of free articles I can read online each month. Apparently, I’m just too cheap to reward journalists monetarily for the fruits of their labors. (However, I am happy to reciprocate by making my own articles available free of any fees or advertisements!)
As I was saying, I opened up the New York Times app on my phone and viewed a most interesting op-ed by none other than Russian President “Vladimir V. Putin”. (The “V” stands for Vladimirovich, a middle name that more than makes up for its redundancy with its ease of memorization.) The headline reads “A Plea for Caution from Russia” and there is an image of a blackened hand with two black stripes running across it. Continue reading
White House photo by Pete Souza
John Kerry finds himself in a familiar position or two on the issue of Syria.
As the Obama administration continues to make its push for a military strike in Syria, a familiar face has emerged at the center of this global diplomatic effort: Secretary of State John Kerry, one-time Democratic presidential candidate, long-time U.S. Senator for Massachusetts, and part-time windsurfer. No one has been logging more frequent flier miles or hours on camera than Kerry in this push to convince global allies and the American public that Assad’s misdeeds must be punished through military strength.
This is hardly the first time that Kerry has found himself at the center of the debate over a controversial war. In fact, there are few people who could have been more ironic spokespersons for a Syrian assault than our current Secretary of State. Continue reading