Sunday, December 31, 2006

As He Is Laid To Rest

As former President Gerald Rudolph Ford is being laid to rest, The Times Observer wishes to pay respect to the 38th president of these United States.

It is not the practice of this editor to criticize a recently deceased person for their particular past actions. Many do but The Times Observer believes in paying respects to a noble leader and belittling such a person before they are not even cold in the ground is an extremely disrespectful thing to do.

The president of the United States is one of the most thankless jobs anyone can have. Many seek it but former President Ford was the only man who had the most responsible job thrusted upon him. With the power that comes with such a position, former President Ford made many accomplishments and in many respects, made some bad choices. After all, he is just a man.

But The Times Observer would like to believe that his term in office, as well as outside the White House, Gerald Rudolph Ford helped make this a better country to live in. Rest in peace, Mr. President.

The True End Of Saddam's Terror

By now, we all know the end of Saddam Hussein’s rein of terror. Interesting how it actually happened for the former Iraqi president/dictator.

It did not seem likely that he would be excused from the land of the living, I have to say. I thought that some groups, either human rights organizations, international political leaders or even the threat of more death from insurgents, would change the minds of the new Iraq government. I figured the most likely end for Saddam was either a life sentence, to be exiled and become a life-long guest of some country that would have him or make a daring escape with the help of his followers.

And maybe this is why I’m not a betting man in general. I did not think that justice would be served. Maybe it is because there is a lack of swift justice in this country that shaped my opinion of Saddam’s execution.

However, it was important that the sentence was carried out. To not follow through with the execution would have sent the worse signs to many people. It would have shown to the Iraqi people, who have suffered many unimaginable horrors under Saddam, that the new government would not be one of law and justice. In my Nov. 6 blog, “How Saddam’s Sentence Affects Iraqis, Islamic Dictators,” I said that the former tyrant’s sentence would send shivers down the backs of many leaders in the Islamic world because they, like Saddam, suppress and torture their own people and deny them basic human rights. Powerful people like them actually fear the little man who has been denied justice and will fight for a just form of government. And that is what happened in Iraq in many ways.

Maybe some thought like I did and that Saddam would escape that particular way of death. But I would imagine that many learned from the past and knew that once a dictator is overthrown, death by the hands of the “revolutionaries” would soon follow. However, I believe that many Islamic leaders in the Middle East never thought Saddam would go through a trail and be sentenced to death from a newly-formed democratic government. And that is another thing they must fear greatly.

Hopefully, there is a sense of closure for the victim’s and their families who suffered greatly by the hands of Saddam. Some Iraqis hope that his death will bring the end to the violence that has occurred on an almost daily basis by the insurgents. Others feel that they will retaliate and seek revenge for Saddam on a later date. But one must remember that people who torture and murder their own countrymen as the insurgents are doing need no motivations to justify their actions.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Keeping The Holidays Religious

What can be said in a holiday opinion piece that hasn’t been said in other newspapers throughout the country during this time of year? Instead of reading the traditional “holiday good cheer” and “giving to those less fortunate than yourself,” how about this: Let’s keep the holiday season religious!

According to the Associated Press, the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport removed Christmas trees after a rabbi asked to have a menorah up along with them. When airport officials refused to add the menorah to their display, Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky was dismayed by the decision and threaten to sue. As a result, instead of dealing with different religious holidays and celebrating them, the airport decided to take down the Christmas trees.

Has it gotten this bad that an airport could not put up one menorah up? Or worse yet, it is when public schools remove the word “Christmas” from concerts so no one will be offended.

Back in 2001, Kensington Town Council banned Santa Claus from being at a tree lighting event because they agreed with a few citizens of the Maryland town that Old Kris Kringle does not have a place in a “secular celebration.” Luckily, a large group of Santas arrived during the event and protested the ban.

Sadly, these are just a few out of many similar incidents that have happened throughout our country in the past few years. It’s happening not only in the classrooms and small towns but in private businesses, and even in some extreme cases, on our own front lawns. For those who are not familiar, here are a few examples of the changes being made: It’s not a snowman anymore; it’s called a snowperson. A Christmas tree is now called a holiday tree. It’s as insulting as calling a menorah a “candlestick holder.”

Enough is enough. Not only is it ridiculous, it’s a restriction of our freedom of speech. How are we supposed to teach true diversity to our children if we are taking the word “Christmas” out of a Christmas carol, or we are not allowed to have a Mishumaa Saba or a menorah in the front windows of our homes or lawns for that matter?

In our politically correct society, while we are running around trying to change things so no one will be hurt or offended, we have caused one of the greatest crimes of the 21st century: we are sterilizing the holidays. That’s right; we are in the midst of wrapping Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa, and placing them in a plastic bag while wearing a bio-hazard suit, so no one will be contaminated with holiday cheer. In doing so, we are murdering the spirit of the season and making the three so bland and indifferent, they are lost in a blizzard of alleged “diversity.” Their life will be sucked out and left as lifeless and tasteless as stale fruitcake.

The holidays are who we are. It’s more than just Santa Claus or a dreidel, but the religious meanings behind them. It’s about the miracle of an oil lamp burning for eight nights, when it should have burnt for one. It’s about the miracle of celebrating a seven-day festival to rejoice in a proud heritage. And, it’s also about the miracle of a baby boy born in a manger to a virgin mother.

Therefore, this season sing “We Wish You A Merry Christmas” while decorating a 9-foot Christmas tree, or spin a dreidel so big you need three people to help you as you sing “The Dreidel Song.” Scream out the meaning of each of the seven values of Kwanzaa with a bullhorn. But whatever you do, do not let anyone stop you from celebrating the holidays because it may offend someone. (Of course, do it responsibly. No one wants to hear the “The Twelve Days of Christmas” at two in the morning by someone dressed as Frosty the Snowman in their backyard.)

And if someone is offended and complains about your celebration or displays of whatever holiday/religion you are celebrating, tell them to stick it up their stockings! It is their problem if they are not mature enough to handle the holiday seasons.

While political correctness has changed “mailman” into “letter carrier,” and “janitor” into “custodial engineer,” let’s not let it change the holidays or their meanings. Let’s celebrate them not in the politically correct way but the diverse way: not changing them at all and celebrating them the way they were meant to be. That way, maybe we can learn something about our neighbors and ourselves. Remember that our Constitution guarantees us the separation between government and religion, not citizen and religion.

And no matter which religion you practice or holiday you do or do not celebrate, The Times Observer wishes you Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah and a joyful Kwanzaa and Seasons Greetings to all!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Remembering The Day Of Infamy

For those who lived through the attack on Pearl Harbor 65 years ago, their numbers are dwindling. It's hard to believe that the "greatest generation" is fading away like a beautiful sunset on a Hawaiian shore.

For those who survived the Japanese assault, this is the last year they will be going to Pearl Harbor to pay their respects to their fallen brothers and to share memories, according to an Associated Press story today.

"We're like the dodo bird. We're almost extinct," Mal Middlesworth, president of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, puts it. The 83-year-old was a young marine of only 18 on the USS San Francisco, a New Orleans-class heavy cruiser, when the attacks happened.

That attacked forced an invitation into American hands to join World War II that day and unintentionally, it probably saved the world from the Nazi threat because of America’s involvement.

While that horrific act touched off a series of events that no one could have possibly dreamt of, especially for Imperial Japan near the last days of the war, it has tugged on the heartstrings of many by hearing the heroic acts that took place on the 7th day of December.

Adolph D. Mortensen was a Navy Junior Officer on the USS Oklahoma, a Nevada-class battleship. He was not only a hero that day but saw a hero die.

As the Oklahoma was hit by torpedoes, Mortensen was trying to make his way off the ship when it turned upside down, as he told his story to the Web site Pearl Harbor: Remembered.

He was thrown into the dispensary with four other of his fellow officers, as they were treading water and keeping their head above it, as they were breathing in a small pocket of air, he remembers.

Using his feet, the then 25-year-old officer found a porthole. After taking in some air, he plunged down into the water and wrestled the porthole open. Two officers were able to go through with no problems but Mortensen had to push the head of an uncertain steward out of the porthole, he recalls.

The fourth man did not make it. According to Mortensen, the more than 200-pound ship's carpenter, a Mr. Austin, could not fit through the 11-inch wide porthole. He decided to remain there, as he knew that his last moments on Earth were at an end.

This is just one of many stories that have been told over the years and now, many of us can relate to them, as we witnessed the 21st century’s version of Pearl Harbor on Sept. 11, 2001.

There are many lessons that can be learned from the painful events of Dec. 7, 1941: our country is not impenetrable, that heroes are born in times of crisis. But one of the most important lessons we should always carry with us on that day is this: Yesterday’s enemies are today’s friends and allies.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Iraq Is Sleeping With The Enemy

For a long time now, I have always said that the insurgents are the real cause of the mess in Iraq. But with recent events in the news and who the new Iraqi government has decided to allied themselves with, the finger of blame should be pointed to Iraq’s leadership.

It should have sent shivers down most people’s backs when Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this week to discuss Iran’s possible help in dealing with the onslaught of violence created by the insurgents. The question is what type of help could Ahmadinejad offer? Maybe he could stop Iran from sponsoring terrorists in Iraq.

And likely, that’s why Talabani called his meeting with Ahmadinejad a “visit was 100 percent successful,” according to Nasser Karimi, an Associated Press Writer. Sadly, neither of the presidents gave any details of the security agreement but as Karimi reported, Talabani said, “"We discussed in the fields of security, economy, oil and industry. Our agreement was complete.”

All Ahmadinejad said in a joint press conference with reporters that the U.S. should pull out of Iraq and not naming any countries, told nations to stop sponsoring Iraq insurgents because "supporting terrorists is the ugliest act that they can do." Apparently, Ahmadinejad did not want to incriminate himself or Iran. After all, he would not want to hurt Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s feelings. The United States has said that Iran has been sponsoring Shiite militants and al-Sadr has a powerful Shiite militia force called Mahdi Army. He also has no great love for America.

And let’s not forget the fact that al-Sadr has loyalists and supporters in high places in Iraq’s government but more on that in a bit. But for more information about al-Sadr, one would only have to go to the Web archives of USA Today’s Nov. 13 issue, and they would see that the people that al-Sadr “helps” into power makes life for Sunnis deadly. It’s a great article by Rick Jervis and I highly recommend it.

What does this deal mean for Iraq and America, besides the fact that Talabani made it with a devil? Well, Bill O’Reilly, FOX News commentator, made some pretty important points last night on his program. It is most likely that part of this deal worked out between the two presidents is about oil and let’s face facts, that’s probably a big part of this deal. O’Reilly believes this will increase Iran’s power by allowing the country to charge any amount of money on an oil barrel. If they do not, Iran will threaten them with terrorist attacks, he theorizes. He continues that Saudi Arabia would be the number one target and Americans will suffer greatly.

Another important point O’Reilly makes is that there would be no stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons because of the oil threat.

Like him or hate him, O’Reilly makes important points that should not be ignored or dismissed by the general public or politicians. Adding Iran into the equation does not bold well for the Iraqi people or Americans. It would be nice to know what happened behind closed doors on that meeting and Bush’s reactions.

If making a deal with Ahmadinejad was not enough, a leaked White House memo questions if Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ability to deal with the crisis that the country is currently facing. A meeting between President Bush and the prime minister was postponed (or canceled, depending on the news source) by al-Maliki himself, as the White House was quickly trying to clean up the mess on Wednesday.

Depending on who you listen to, an alleged royal source claims that talks between Bush and Jordan’s King Abdullah II went longer than expected and the meeting with al-Maliki in Jordan was canceled, reports Peter Wallsten and Solomon Moore, reporters for the Los Angeles Times. The White House also claims this. However, the same source in the LA Times story says that al-Maliki himself cancelled the meeting, in hopes of appeasing al-Sadr’s supporters, who boycotted the government on that same day. And this is when the fun really begins.

And this does cast doubt on al-Maliki’s ability to handle al-Sadr and his supporters. Because al-Maliki supported the group, it helped him win the election of prime minister. The participants of the boycott were 30 lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers, who are loyal to al-Sadr, the LA Times reported.

The cause of the boycott was al-Maliki’s meeting with Bush and it made “provocation to the feelings of the Iraqi people and a violation of their constitutional rights,” the LA Times reports, quoting a statement. How a meeting actually caused these feelings is an interesting question and it would make one laugh out loud if the situation was not so serious.

So, with leaders of Iraq keeping strange bedfellows with known supporters of terrorists, or terrorists themselves, the real question is not how America should be leaving Iraq but how can Iraq fight insurgents when they are welcoming them with open arms? If these are the types of people that the new Iraq government wants to deal with and refuses to control, then Talabani and al-Maliki better be prepared to sleep in the bloody beds they are making for themselves.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More Headlines About Good Will Towards Man

One of the things I love about this time of year, besides seeing Christmas decorations and hearing holiday music being played nonstop on a few radio stations, is the kindness being reported on.

This is the time of year where newspapers and local and national media networks report how organizations, churches or just a person is having a food drive or is collecting clothes for the needy. Many radio stations have "adopted" a down-on-their-luck family and people will call in, donate money, clothes or food. Most of the time, you will hear a store owner who will donate toys for the family's children or other items that family requires.

Sadly, however, the media only reports these types of stories this time of year, bringing them down from the attic, very much like someone taking the Christmas decorations out and putting them on display. Sure, maybe during the year the local newspaper or network will do a story on how someone showed an act of kindness by helping them out with a payment or a person is trying to keep a half-way house running.

I think one of the best pieces that has been reported this year is Secret Santa Larry Stewart, as reported by Reuters. Back in 1971, he says he was hungry and homeless and a kind soul gave him $20. At that moment, he pledge to God that he would reward that act of kindness by helping others. That started in 1980, by giving someone in need $5.

Today Stewart is a self-made millionaire by investing in cable and telecommunications and has handed out about $1.3 million over the years, he estimates. Depending on the person and situation, Stewart has gone up to them and gave them either a $100 or even as much as $10,000.

"We are all supposed to share our blessings. This is just one way," said 58-year-old Stewart, as Carey Gillam reported, a Reuters’ journalist.

We need more people like Larry Stewart being reported on. I'm not saying the media should ignore the negative aspects of the news but reporting on human kindness is very important as well. It gives hope in a society that is constantly bombarded with stories about rape, murder and war. There is a lot of good that goes unnoticed and I do not see why it cannot make it in the evening news and newspapers more often.

Because we need that balance in a world that has seemingly gone mad.

Friday, November 17, 2006

How The Parties Challenging Views May Hurt Them

Now, the Democrats have their chance to shine since they won the House and Senate and as most have seen, the snowball has started to roll down the hill, heading towards the presidential elections. While many have been speculating as to why the Democrats won, that is not as important as what has been going on in their own party for the last couple of years. If they hope to ride the snowball to victory, Democrats themselves need to take a hard look at their own party if they hope to gain the highest office in the land.

Lately, like an alcoholic in his first AA meeting, many die-hard Democratic supporters have started to admit that their party has no control or focus, with many party leaders scattered on the issues. Either elected members are ultra, left-winged liberals or others are moderates with some actual conservative views on issues that normally separate the two parties. Now those same issues have placed a wedge within the Democratic Party itself.

Many blame the baby boomers during the 1960s, as they "took over" the Democratic Party with their views, most notably, against the Vietnam War. As the years went by, more and more of those views started to shape the party as more baby boomers took office. Bill O'Reilly, FOX News commentator, calls these beliefs "San Francisco values," because of their liberal tone.

But on the right side of the Democratic Party, you have people like Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey Jr., who is against many traditional views that his party supports. He is for overturning Roe v. Wade and against embryonic stem cell research. Sen. Casey endorses not having a deadline and timetable for the Iraq war; all major issues that his most of his colleagues have opposite views on. Democratic member Dennis Kucinich of the United States House of Representatives comes to mind and helps illustrate the vast differences in ideologies within the party.

For a party that prides itself on diversity and acceptance, the average voter realizes this will hurt the party’s chances for the White House in 2008. And even the party leaders must realize it. If the Democrats hope to win, they need to seize control of their far left and right members and start setting a game plan that everyone can follow. Even though the Republicans lost this past election, they are still in control of their own party and have a good support base. Sadly, the same cannot be said about the Democrats.

However, the Republicans might fall into the same chaotic place that the Democrats have found themselves in. It is a little hard to notice that in recent years, many hardcore, Christian right views are trying to gain control of the Republican Party. Most likely, many new members are trying to counter the growing liberal views of the Democratic Party.

Of course, the Republicans are all for it, because it will help them in elections and it's not too far off to the party's principles. This being said, this may bite them in the end as many Democrats and their supporters are now finding out. Whatever good intentions it might be in the beginning, the type of beliefs that many of the far right endorse may split the GOP years from now on the issues. If the Republicans are wise, they will notice what ultra views have done to their competitor's party.

Monday, November 06, 2006

How Saddam’s Sentence Affects Iraqis, Islamic Dictators

It was both historic and historical yesterday as former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death for the killing of 148 Shi'ite men in Dujail after a failed assassination attempt against Saddam in 1982. But as we hear from witness testimony during the trial, many other crimes were carried out, such as mass murder, torture and rape of women and children. All serious and ironic charges against Saddam, considering he was the one who called the court, the new Iraqi government and undoubtedly, the U.S., the “ … the enemies of humanity” once he heard the conviction.

Quite a few over here in America said that Saddam's trial was nothing more than a horse and pony show, something for the Iraqi people and the world to see. A bit of propaganda, to show that the new democracy that America helped set up in Iraq is the best form of government for the Iraqi people. Maybe there is some truth to that. It reminds me of a scene from "Silence of the Lambs." After his drawings and toilet seat were removed from his cell, because Dr. Hannibal Lecter insulted Dr. Frederick Chilton, the hospital administrator where Lecter was kept, Dr. Lecter comments to Clarice Starling that it was a pitiful attempt at punishing him and at the same time, makes Dr. Chilton feel important, since he was the one who ordered the removal of the drawings. Dr. Lecter says about this: "Any rational society would kill me, or give me my books (back)."

Granted, Dr. Lecter says this about society's half-measures of punishing deadly criminals but there is some relevance. Instead of taking away books, Saddam was placed on trial, even though most people knew what the sentence was going to be instead of killing him outright.

However, the trial was important because we needed to show the Iraqi people, who lived under fear of Saddam for so long, that his methods of "justice" would not be that of the new government. This message was also enforced when it was reported that there is an appeals process before the final punishment is carried out. This shows that this is a government with a great sense of justice and compassion, both important aspects that were lacking when Saddam and his colleagues were in charge.

I would imagine that it also put a lot of fear in the leaders of many Islamic countries in that region who are also cruel dictators. The fear must have started when the Iraqi people were rejoicing after the major battles finished in Iraq and were seen dancing and kissing coalition troops. Then there was the famous toppling of Saddam’s statue. That sent a powerful and terrifying message to other leaders like Saddam that the people that they rule over with an iron fist would love to do the same thing to them. Having Saddam sentenced to death by hanging sends a mighty chill down their backs as well. That shows they want this form of government, where the people rule, not the ruler. If giving the decent Iraqi people the freedom and choice of government of their own would give results such as this for their former leader, what would happen if the decent people of Syria had such an opportunity? This must scare leaders in countries like Syria and Iran.

Better men than I would know if spreading democracy is good for the oppress or the world, since there are many consequences that need to be considered and many that might have unforeseen results. Only time will tell. However, for the most part, the Iraqi people finally have their destiny in their hands for the first time in a long time. They made the right choice in the government they wanted during Iraqi elections and they made the right choice with the judicial system they selected.

With this conviction of Saddam and six other defendants, hopefully it will send a strong message to the insurgents — former Saddam leaders and terrorists — that the courageous people of Iraq do not want their form of government or their presence.

Friday, November 03, 2006

How To Vote On Election Day

It is interesting how people have their own methods of voting for or against a political candidate. Many are die-hard Republicans or Democrats who just cannot see past the support buttons of their candidate. Too many of them will vote for their party, even if the candidate is not the best person for the job. This happens too many times, especially with the political climate we have today.

Others feel that voting an incumbent out is the best policy, since it allows new faces and fresh ideas to enter the political position, such as congressman or governor. Interesting idea and maybe some truth to it if the incumbent is doing a bad job, however, this is a poor knee-jerk reaction to voting. Without proper research, that voter might ignorantly vote a good person out of office.

As idiotic and sad as this sounds, another popular method of voting for a candidate is if the voter has something in common with the candidate, such as being in the same branch of military or even having the same type of operation. The operation example sounds silly, doesn’t it? Sadly, it has been known to happen.

So, what is the best way to choose our next political leaders? Certainly not by the sound bytes they give us on the nightly news or their vicious attacks on their opponents. And their party supporters are no help in the matter either, as they can be more vicious then the candidates themselves.

Realistically, both of the major parties have their faults and have done some great good as well. However, neither one would ever admit it, either about themselves of their faults or the good that the “enemy" has done. Both have been found with their hands in the cookie jar one too many times and both, more than often, will vote for a bill if there is something in it for them. And these are hard-truths that need to be shoved down the throats of die-hard party voters and supporters.

Despite that, one of the best ways is to actually research the people running for office and keeping up with their records.

Just about every candidate has a Web site now, and if not a quick call to their campaign headquarters can provide you with their goals and biased-records. (Let’s face it, no candidate is going to air out his or her dirty laundry for the public. That’s the job of their opponents.) But looking at their goals and how they want to serve their districts will certainly help you gain a better perspective of them.

Reading your local newspaper is a great way to keep up on their past voting records on certain issues that you find important. Looking at the positives and negatives of all the candidates running is far better than listening to their 30-second political ads. And sometimes it does not hurt to listen to some of the mudslinging that is heard in the ads, because that can be used to look into the accusations and determine if they are true or not.

Of course, a great, unbiased newspaper would do that for you, with a great feature spread on all the candidates, regardless of the political party. I believe that all news organizations, especially newspapers, should give the good and the bad of all the people who are running, whether they are Republicans, Democrats, Green Party, Independent, etc., and allow the readers/viewers to make the best choices themselves. Sadly, this is not always the case. So, voters should do it themselves.

Sounds like a lot of work? It is, yet it is the best way to ensure that the right person is elected into office. The ignorant and bias voter does just as much harm, if not more, to their community and nation as a corrupted, unqualified politician.

And after voting on Election Day and as you leave the booth, say what I always say: “I voted today and may God have mercy on my soul.”

Thursday, October 26, 2006

What The U.S.-Mexico Fence Means To Us, Others

By now, most people will know that President Bush signed a bill, authorizing 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border to prevent illegal immigrants and possible terrorists from entering the country.

According to the Associated Press, no money has been allocated for the fence, which is only going to cover 700 miles of the 2,100-mile border. However, there is a $1.2 billion
down payment.

The question that needs to be asked is this: Is this worthwhile? It certainly is not a cure all by any stretch of the imagination and it would be foolish to think so. Yet, it cannot hurt and it is a good preventative measure, if done right. And that also means having enough money for surveillance equipment and guards to patrol this divider. This will cost a pretty penny indeed but something that will help. After all, it's not like our Mexican neighbor wants to help out.

While the whole issue is causing debate, outgoing Mexican President Vicente Fox is upset over this. He has wanted a new guest worker program (and that topic is for another blog, for another day) and he also wanted millions of Mexicans who are working illegally in America to be given citizenship. (It's safe to assume these people are in the country illegally as well.) And what does he say about the whole affair of this new barrier? "Shameful," according tot he Associated Press.

What's shameful is that he's passing off his own unwanted citizens and making them someone else's problem, while not doing enough to stop the corruption in his own country and fixing a severely broken Mexican economy, two main reasons why his people are leaving in droves.

America is a country that welcomes all nationalities with open arms but by no means should we turn a blind eye to those, no matter where they hail from, who come here illegally. There are thousands who go to the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to become citizens legally and it would be a crime to make their trials all in vain by giving a free pass to illegal aliens.

Monday, October 09, 2006

North Korea’s Actions Against The World

Well, as the world already knows, North Korea claims to have tested an underground nuclear bomb. Let’s clarify that, the Communist country performed a nuclear test underground but yes, it is safe to say it was a bomb. Besides the fact that the country announced it would conduct such a test last week, it does seem hard to believe it could be anything other than a bomb, unless the country's leader Kim Jong-II order that nearly a million microwave ovens to go off as a practical joke.

Sadly, it is not some sick joke. According to the Associated Press, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivano said today that North Korea's nuclear test was equivalent to 5,000 tons to 15,000 tons of TNT. The bomb that struck Hiroshima during World War II by the U.S. was equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT.

This resulted in a 4.2-magnitude earthquake about 240 miles northeast of the North Korean capital Pyongyang, recorded at 10:35 a.m. (believed to be EST) according to the U.S. Geological Survey Web site, reported by CNN. Even South Korean intelligence officials confirmed this.

The world has already starting to denounce the nuclear test, saying it will make relations with North Korea far worse than they already are. Even China and Russia are among these vocals of criticism.

And yes, this test certainly does not help matters. Only three short months ago, the world was on pins and needles as North Korea tested fired rockets, with giving a few in the world a sign of relief when the long-ranged Taepodong-2 missile failed. However, whatever the failures were are most likely corrected now, or in the planning stages. Not a comforting thought to have when trying to fall asleep tonight but a realistic one we must realize.

North Korea claims that it’s only conducting these tests because of the “building of U.S. aggression,” adding that President Bush plans on overthrowing its government. Of course, North Korea sang a different tune back in July of 2000, because there were delays of the construction of two Western-developed light-water nuclear reactors for the country. These reactors were part of a U.S. deal made in exchange for North Korea to freeze and disassemble its nuclear weapons programs. North Korea threaten it would start up this lovely nuclear program if the U.S. did not compensate the country for loss of electricity. Certainly, these are not reasonable actions to take when things do not work out, whatever the reasons. Other sensible, non-threatening steps could have been taken back in 2000 but this just goes to show you the mind-set of the people we are dealing with.

With countries like North Korea, or dealing with their leaders such as Jong, appeasement does not work. Bowing down to people like this usually comes back and bites America and the world in the end. The solution? Freezing some money and bank accounts, along with placing additional embargos might work but that alone will probably not be enough.

Another option is a military one. Attacking the Communist country’s weapons facilities now before they have a chance of actually build a long-range nuclear missile seems logical, if they have not done so already. Seems like a reasonable course of action but may not be the best one. Unless powerhouses like Russia and China want to tag along, which would send a very strong message to North Korea, even a threat of such a war might be enough though.

Another course of action is to go to the U.N., but this organization does not have a good track record on dealing with violent leaders or terror organizations. Their failure to enforce their own resolutions against former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein or preventing Hezbollah resulted in the growing in numbers of members, weapons and bases for the two parties. Because of this, two major wars resulted. (Which are two topics for another day.) If the U.N. had the backbone to actually follow the letter of the international laws placed against dangerous dictators and terrorists groups, then that is probably the best option to take.

However, since it is not, something must be done and appeasement is not the answer. Even if another deal is worked out, North Korea cannot be allowed to remove IAEA monitoring seals and cameras from its nuclear facilities and force out the watchdog agency's inspectors, as they did in December of 2002. Kim Jong-Il actions are threatening the world and it must stop immediately. If sound, rational actions are not taken soon over this crisis, it is not unreasonable to assume that North Korea may very well start a nuclear war.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

What Journalism Is And What It Isn't

Journalism is supposed to be about fair and balanced reporting, covering both sides of the issue and allowing the readers/viewers to decide. However, this is not always the case.

Too many networks and newspapers lean towards one side of the political spectrum or the other. The New York Times is accused of being liberal, while FOX News is charged with being too conservative. Sadly, many people say that this is just fine with them because they can go to different stations or newspapers to get information, because each news outlet has its own "political agenda" as some have labeled their stance on certain issues.

This is wrong. A person should be able to go to one news source and feel comfortable with the fact that he or she are getting a just and balanced report on the issue they are reading/watching about.

Sometimes, though, when two people read the same thing, they each have a different opinion on the stances of the writer of the article. This happened to me after the last presidential elections a few years ago while I worked as an editor for a weekly newspaper.

Not believing that newspapers should support any politician because it may cloud their reporting, I took a neutral stance on the elections. I wrote an editorial about a week before the elections were about to take place and it was going to appear a week after the results came in. I finished the editorial after a few days after the election, just to see who one so I could properly name the winner. The editorial basically said that as Americans, we should all come together after the bitter mudslinging fight and should support President Bush, as well as Sen. Kerry.

Well, I received two letters to the editor, with one person saying I supported Bush, while the other accused me of being a Kerry supporter. I ran both letters and wrote an editorial, stating how interesting the reactions were, considering I wrote the editorial a week before the elections results came in.

Thus, this proves my point that some readers and viewers decide what a news outlet's political leanings are. And that is true. Even the most objective reporter and editor cannot do anything about that. However, it is also true, from personal experience, that certain news organizations will put their own political slant on certain news stories or intentionally not even bothering to include certain views.

But that is a blog for another day.