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.”