Friday, March 23, 2007

Republican = Conservative?

Not necessarily so. They like to boast of that distinction, but look no further than the Idaho Legislature (likely the most one-sided Republican in the nation) for evidence to the contrary.

If they were so conservative, you'd think Idaho's taxpayers would hardly have a burden at all! And Idaho's Book of Laws could be contained in a brochure.

Most recently, they voted a ban on smoking in Idaho bowling alleys by a wide margin.

How is that "conservative"?

(To his credit, Governor Otter, who is much more conservative than the Legislature, vetoed the bill.)

The well-meaning legislators just wanted to protect Idaho's citizens. One of the bill's sponsors, Senator Brent Hill, worries about the ill-effects of second-hand smoke. He said, "It's not a matter of 'it's possible,' it's a fact that they will [get sick]."

Now, if he were talking about visitors to a smoke-filled government office building, I'd agree with him 100%.

But last I heard, people can choose whether to visit a privately-owned bowling alley. (Personally, the only time I visit is when our church youth group is helping out with a Special Olympics event. Because I don't like the stench of tobacco, and will avoid it when I have the choice.) The owner of the bowling alley should be able to determine - based on whatever criteria he wants to use - whether to allow smoking or prohibit smoking.

Same thing with bars and restaurants. I can't imagine eating in a restaurant filled with tobacco smoke... and would take my business elsewhere. The restauranteur should be able to decide how badly he wants the business of non-smokers.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Will Work For Food

Now that the days are getting longer again, I'm starting to see the cardboard signs at drive-time. Most of 'em are the traditional "Will work for food." How many of those folks are really hoping to land some gainful employment? I've heard that Boise currently has several THOUSAND unfilled jobs, and many of them are in the service industry, where you don't need skills and experience, just willingness to work.

There's a guy I see regularly just under the I-184 Connector. He looks able-bodied, maybe early 40s, somewhat unkempt but presentable. His sign is a variation... I believe it says "Just need a little help."

I can identify! I "work for food" every day! (When I bicycle past the guy who "just needs a little help," I'm tempted to stop and give him some help in the form of advice - GET A JOB!)

Years ago, we taught our kids a valuable object lesson.

We were headed for the bakery thrift store. (I have to watch my budget carefully, or I'll be standing on the side of the road with a cardboard sign!) We saw a guy sitting on a corner a couple blocks away, with his sign. It said "will work for food." So, we bought an extra loaf of bread - FINE bread! - and took it back to him. He acted as though he was extremely grateful - he eagerly took the bread and said, "Thank you, God bless!" or something to that effect. We drove away, feeling good about having provided some food. (We all know that money will buy food, but if you donate cash, it can be exchanged for pretty much anything.)

Later that afternoon, we were on a different errand. We drove past the same corner. The panhandler guy was gone. The loaf of bread was sitting on the corner, unopened. We took it to the park and fed the ducks with it. Evidently the guy wasn't that hungry.

Like I said before - we taught our kids a valuable object lesson.

Here's an interesting story out of Denver. They've set up some "homeless parking meters," where charitable folks can feed a few quarters into the meter instead of handing it directly to a homeless person. Money collected is used to fund the various programs for the local homeless population.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Bad News!

The tire tracks in the snow told the tragic story. The car had gone off the highway, and headed straight for the pond. Inexperienced 15-year-old driver, bad road conditions. She, and her younger brother, and three friends all perished in the cold water that quickly enveloped them.

Surely death was relatively quick and painless. They were good kids, and I sincerely believe they're in a better place now.

But it's difficult to even imagine the grief and horror being experienced by their families, friends, and other loved ones left behind.

The "drive-by media" quickly circled overhead like buzzards. Or was it more like a shark feeding-frenzy… roaming around the victims' school, hoping to catch somebody crying on camera? Or to put a microphone in the face of a friend for a sobbing interview?

Is this the "news coverage" that we, the viewers, want? Do we bask in bad news? Do we gain something by observing the tragedy of others? Does it make us feel better about the relative peace and serenity of our own lives?

And how about the news reporters and producers? If they get video of tears rolling down the principal's face, do they "high-five" back at the station house?

It's always somewhat bizarre to watch it on the 6 o'clock news… they put on their long faces as they solemnly discuss the story. And then, as often as not, they brighten right up with those local-celebrity Pepsodent smiles, as they go into the next (happy) story, most likely about the Broncos winning the Fiesta Bowl.

They'll milk it for all it's worth. Video of the pallbearers and the funeral coach (reporterette dressed in black). Maybe some follow-up interviews with the deputy sheriff or a family spokesman. Maybe ask the lawmakers why there aren't guardrails along every foot of every state highway.

(It's no different in the national, or even world, media. Witness Anna Nicole Smith. Or Princess Diana - I see where her late boyfriend's daddy gets to tell his story to the jury... his story being that it was no accident; they were killed by British Security so the beloved princess wouldn't end up marrying a Muslim.)

Eventually we'll all get distracted by some other tragic or sordid story.

Again I ask… is this what the viewers want to see? Apparently.

(May God bless and comfort the families and friends of these kids, taken from them way too soon.)