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Category: Words

October 23 2009

In case you haven’t heard, 26-year-old Desiree Jennings (who was training to be an NFL cheerleader) was allegedly diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called Dystonia. Her case is so rare that even

target=”_blank”>specialists have been heard saying they’ve never encountered it. However, because it happened to her ten days after getting a flu vaccine, the political misinformation machine is already exploiting her situation.

And here’s the proof.

I’ve used a web service called Splicd to highlight these five seconds of the original two minute piece from Inside Edition. In this clip, you will see/hear a glitch in the video. This glitch causes the narrator to say, “Doctors say what happened to Desire should [glitch] discourage people from getting a flu shot.”

Now listen to this longer clip so you can hear the glitch in context. It’s obvious that the doctors say that even though this happened to the young woman, people should not be discouraged from getting the flu shot. But considering how that clip is edited, it’s not exactly clear what they mean unless you happen to catch it.

Some people may argue that this glitch is just the nature of internet video clips, and I’d have to admit there is that possibility. But if you watch the

target=”_blank”>entire video, there is only one moment in the whole two-minute segment where there are any problems with the video. And it just happened to be the one moment when they give the only piece of information that the public could use.

So, aside from the fact that the piece was clearly a call to emotion and had presented zero evidence that the flu vaccine caused her problem, the video was obviously edited to distort the truth about the flu vaccine. What’s the problem with some obscure video having an almost unnoticeable edit? Well, besides the fact that “almost unnoticeable” edits are a staple of subliminal marketing, the video is far from obscure. The specific clip I’ve referenced in this article has had over 165,000 views since it was posted a week ago, and now there are duplicates of the video including the propagandized edit all over YouTube.

target=”_blank”>Here’s one.

target=”_blank”>Here’s another.

target=”_blank”>And another.

target=”_blank”>And another.

target=”_blank”>And this one with VaccinationEducation.com plastered over it. It has been viewed over a million times and there’s no telling how many times people will view it without knowing the truth.

What does this mean? It means that someone took the original Inside Edition article, chopped out the word “not”, and provided physical copies for people to upload. There are dozens (hundreds?) of people actively spreading an obvious propaganda virus that was edited by an anonymous person and injected into the veins of the internet. Please share this information with everyone. Fight the propaganda!

May 28 2009

There has been a lot of “debate” over what to do with all of the human beings and monsters locked away in Guantanamo Bay. There are apparently only two sides to this discussion: free them all and send them letters of apology or kill them all and let God sort them out. I’m obviously oversimplifying things, but you wouldn’t know it if you watched the 24-hour news channels. Like so many public discussions, the truth is often obscured by the rhetoric.

Gitmo TortureFor every terror suspect we convict fairly, there are hundreds we detain unfairly. For every innocent person we keep incarcerated, we create dozens of potential enemies. And for every person (regardless of innocence or guilt) we treat unfairly or inhumanely, we create untold numbers of people who no longer see America as the shining beacon of freedom we so desperately claim to be. What other reasons do terrorists need to demonize us if we actively and regularly give them reasons? How can we dispute their claim that we are the Great Evil when our actions are so greatly evil?

Aside from keeping the worst of the worst locked safely away, the only thing that can change the anti-American sentiment that has been broiling over the past decade is a fresh and decent approach to our fellow citizens of the world. I do not include terrorists in this group, however. A terrorist loses their worldwide citizenship once they conspire to commit crimes against their fellow humans. But how, exactly, is that different than when we commit crimes against our fellow humans? An innocent person locked away in a dank cell is a crime of the highest order, and every person in the society that supports it shares the blame for it.

It used to be that the ends justified the means. Airplanes were used to murder 3,000 Americans? Let’s tighten airport security to the point where even children and the elderly are searched and detained. The Viet Cong are hiding among women and children in the jungle? Let’s firebomb the whole place to ensure we kill enough of the enemy. Japan attacks a military installation in the United States? Let’s put all people of Japanese descent into concentration camps. The South wants to secede from the union? Let’s go to war with them and kill hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans. The native Americans won’t move out of the land we want? Let’s force them off or just slaughter them outright.

Throughout American history, we have justified our atrocities in the name of our ideals. But even when those ideals are righteous, it does not change the fact that we have committed atrocities. Deep down, every intelligent or thoughtful person knows this. That’s why we justify executing individuals who have committed murder. We know that we are killing someone to make the point that killing is wrong. And while most of us recognize how glaringly hypocritical it is, as a nation we continue to do it anyway. If there were no hypocrisy to our actions, it would need no justification.

Which leads me to former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Dick CheneyImmediately after President Obama’s speech that re-defined America’s stance on national security, not five minutes had passed before Cheney took his own stage in an attempt to give a rebuttal. His speech was a preemptive attack on his enemies, a tactic he is clearly comfortable with. In it’s own Karlrovian way, it displayed obvious hypocrisy wrapped in a package of carefully-worded propaganda. For example, after he mentioned 9/11 over a dozen times, he clearly stated that we should not focus on the past. Then he attempted to deflect criticism away from his administration and place the blame onto the current one, oblivious to the points Obama made just moments earlier about the numbers of political prisoners the Bush administration freed. He focused on inane and irrelevant details such as the term “abducted” and incorrectly characterized it as the Obama administration’s wording, all while using terms like “sadistic” to describe American interrogators who were acting under full authorization from the Bush administration. He continued to fuel the quasi-debate about how safe America would be if we allowed detainees to be held on American soil, completely ignoring the fact that we have held thousands of people in Federal maximum security prisons and no one has ever escaped from one. Perhaps worst of all, he took credit for the fact that we were not attacked while under his watch while failing to recognize that hundreds of attacks have occurred on American soldiers every year since we entered Iraq.

All of this got me thinking about why Cheney (who I do not believe cares about America as much as he would like us to think) is suddenly so vocal on this issue. He has been on a media blitz, employing his loyal servants, family members, and his own personal media outlet to repeat the same talking points as opposed to actual experts who understand the issue. Why, Dick? Well, his daughter accidentally let the truth slip: Cheney fears prosecution. And he should. One grand jury has already indicted him, and more people are calling for his indictment every day.

I am pleased with the new direction this nation appears to be heading concerning how we deal with terror suspects. If things go as planned, we will move these prisoners to our soil where they can be safely and legally monitored. President Obama’s speech in front of the Constitution was more of a poignant reminder of where we come from than an arrogant assumption about missions not-quite-accomplished. That speech is destined for the history books, but hopefully, it will be remembered as one of the great turning points in the American psyche. I hope it is the beginning of an era when we hold our leaders responsible for their actions, not excuse them because of their motives. Cheney is such a slippery weasel that I have no illusions about justice ever being served, but I would like to see us try at least. After all, when Bill Clinton shot someone in the face, it wasn’t with a shotgun, and we impeached him.

That is why I fully support the indictment and prosecution of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

March 4 2009

I was in a chat room recently with a group of people defending that pompous windbag Rush Limbaugh. One of them even claimed that he was “a great American.” I couldn’t stand by while this mind-numbing crap was going on, so I felt compelled to respond. The conversation (not surprisingly) devolved into a discussion about college degrees and expertise, and at one point one of the more enlightened people in the room pointed out that Rush doesn’t even have a college degree. Taking it as a slight against “uneducated” people, we had to defend our position against this perceived class warfare. The problem isn’t that he doesn’t have a college degree (I don’t even have one yet), but rather that he is an uneducated person who speaks with authority on subjects he clearly doesn’t fully grasp. Somehow during all of this, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Phil, and Sylvia Brown were used as examples of non-experts pretending to be experts. The following was my response.

Dr. Phil talks about relationships and personal interactions, which I’m pretty sure is his area of expertise. So, I’m not sure he’s exactly pretending. Oprah doesn’t pretend to be an expert as much as allow experts to come onto her show and share their knowledge. So, I’m not sure what she’s pretending, either. And that psychic lady…well, you’re right about her pretending. Psychics are in the business of pretending to be experts. But, Rush’s area of expertise is what? Opinions? Well, if being full of opinions is all it takes to be an expert, we could each have our own show.

The problem here is that we (as a society) tend to confuse opinions and beliefs. Everyone has the right to their opinions and no one can have a wrong opinion, but anyone can have beliefs that are simply wrong. If (for example) you believe that red is better than blue, then it shouldn’t be a problem if I prefer blue over red. There’s no arguing taste, right? However, if you think that blue is a sign of wanting to destroy America, then that’s not an opinion…it’s a belief. And people can be dead wrong about their beliefs.

Rush is one of those people who blends opinions and beliefs together in order to further his political agenda. That’s fine. We all do that from time to time. The truly unfortunate thing is that he is heard by millions of people (few of whom think critically about what he’s saying and just nod in agreement), and it just further confuses the actual issues at hand. This conversation is a perfect example of that. Does anyone remember what we were even talking about in the first place? No. We just know that the other side is wrong, we are right, and blah blah blah…

But really, who is right? If it’s an opinion we’re discussing, everyone is right. If it’s a belief we’re discussing, everyone has the potential to be completely wrong.

One person’s opinion is that Rush Limbaugh is a great American. I can’t argue that. However, it is my belief that Rush is a hypocrite, a liar, an idiot, a rabble rouser, a tool, and an evil bastard. Those are all points we can argue.

March 4 2008

In the 1967 version of In the Heat of the Night, there is a scene where the white police chief Bill Gillespie (played by Rod Steiger) turns to the black detective Virgil Tibbs (played by Sidney Poitier) and says, “Well, you’re pretty sure of yourself, ain’t you, Virgil. Virgil, that’s a funny name for a nigger boy to come from Philadelphia! What do they call you up there?”

Virgil replies, “They call me Mister Tibbs!”

That moment isn’t significant simply because a black man is defending himself. A line like that is more important in a larger perspective because it was a sign that things were beginning to change. Tibbs didn’t attack Gillespie, he didn’t play the race card, and he didn’t play into any stereotypes. He just defended himself as any human being would.

I don’t think our current presidential race is really about the candidates. I honestly believe that no matter who gets elected, they’re still a puppet controlled by the hand of the government. Sometimes that hand is controlled by the people, sometimes by Congress, and sometimes by the natural forces of society. But the candidate is still a puppet. No matter what their stances are or their personal beliefs, they’re still the leader of ALL of America. They have to make decisions as a leader that they would never make as an individual, and that’s okay because that’s part of being a servant of the people. But they are not the supreme leader that rules this land (like a dictatorship), they are the representative of the people and their needs and desires.

This is important because bullshit “stances” (like where they fit on abortion, gay marriage, the war, etc.) are just that: bullshit. Who cares what the president’s personal beliefs are? If he says red is the best color, all the blue lovers out there would immediately dislike him. I know that’s an oversimplified way to look at it, but not by much. It is absolutely impossible for people to agree on any issue, much less important or controversial ones. The president is here to represent us all, not just my beliefs or your beliefs. As long as they attempt to bridge the gap between the millions of differing opinions, they’re doing their job. And (not to give the pro-war fans any fodder) who knows what information the president has access to that the people will never be given access to? This privileged position dictates that once the president is sworn in, they stop being an individual and start being the head of the entire political body…which is just fine by me. After all, this is still a democracy, right?

confused BushGetting to my point, the elections this year are important to me for a specific reason: it’s a barometer for the nation’s mental health. When Bush was elected in 2000, it really didn’t bother me much because the choices were so unclear. I was annoyed, sure, because it seemed like we elected a guy mostly based on the fact that his last name was the same as another (incredibly unsuccessful) president. I mean, really, people mostly voted for Bush because they didn’t like Gore, not because they actually liked or believed in Bush. Most people who voted against Gore did it because he was tied to Clinton, and there were a lot of Clinton-haters on that side of the fence. So our nation was petty? Big deal.

However, when 2004 came around, the world was completely different. We’d gone through the greatest series of crises since the Vietnam War and begun an obviously controversial war that was perpetuated by pure fear. He was clearly incompetent, too stubborn to be a decent leader, and ruled over possibly the most corrupt administration ever. (I know what you’re thinking, and before you jump on me, let’s just wait until history reveals the truth.) More people apparently liked Bush than disliked him, even though the streets were filled with people protesting the war for months. I mean, if over half of the voting population elected him and his approval rating is so consistently low, it means that there was a huge portion of people in our nation that voted for the wrong person. It didn’t bother me that We the People chose the incompetent incumbent over the charmless challenger, it bothered me that we were making that choice based on the wrong things: fear and paranoia.

Stephen Colbert Presidential SealAnd so, these days it doesn’t bother me at all when people tell me that Obama has received contributions from special interest groups. You know why? All politicians do it. Yes, even Ron Paul. (His base is the very essence of special interest.) People complain about the apparent lack of substance in this election, but how does that distinguish this election from any other? Everyone talks about idealistic and abstract things while on the campaign trail. That’s how it works.

The truth is, I really don’t care about the individual candidates. Voting is about the voters and will of the people, not the individual candidates and speculation about what they might do once in office. I mean, if everyone would’ve known how huge of a mess the war was going to be, do you really think Bush would’ve been elected? What really matters in an election is what the voters think, not the candidates themselves. Voting is a barometer for our hopes, fears, wants, needs, dreams, and nightmares. And in 2004 we forgot our about our hopes, wants, and dreams and cowered to our fears, needs, and nightmares. After this several-year-long downhill slide, I almost lost faith in America, and I became a genuine advocate for Stephen Colbert for president. I figured that if the electoral system was a joke, why not elect a comedian?

Barack the VoteBut now that Obama is in the race and the people are starting to rally behind him, I’ve started to feel that hope in humanity I’ve been missing for so long. Of course, there are a lot of people who are voting for him simply because he’s black, a Democrat, not a Republican, from Illinois, good-looking, charismatic, or some other arbitrary reason. But many people are rallying behind the “Yes, we can!” mentality, and that’s what really matters to me. There will always be those jaded people who feel compelled to disparage hope and idealism. I pity these people. Anyone who mocks idealism is too jaded for their own good. What is the point of hope if not to inspire?

Clinton would be an excellent choice, but I fear the pseudo-support that comes from the meaningless legacy vote (just like Bush in 2000). McCain would also be a great choice because he’s honest and reliable, but even a sturdy train is dangerous when it’s riding on uneven tracks. But I have been watching Obama since I first saw him campaigning for the House of Representatives in 2000. I remember thinking, “That guy should run for president.” And when he gave the keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in 2004 I thought, “Obama is going to run for president.” Now, every time I listen to him speak, read about him, or see how my brothers and sisters of America react to him, all I can think is, “Barack is going to be president!” If voting is the barometer of the people, then it looks like the clouds of fear and paranoia might be starting to break. The candidates could all be four-armed axe-wielding Gorläg demons for all I care, as long it means that America is finally doing something about its problems rather than simply complaining about them, or worse, pretending that everything is just fine.

Are there things about Obama I don’t like? Oh, sure. Are there things he believes in that I don’t agree with? Absolutely. Will he be the best choice for president? Possibly. Will he only make decisions that I agree with? No way. But, will I encourage people to vote for him? With every tool I have at my disposal. Why? Because I have faith in humanity, and I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t vote for hope.

November 17 2007

I know how this is going to make me look to some people, but I just stop reading certain emails when I realize it’s their attempt to convince me thatThe Revised Presidential Seal voting for Stephen Colbert is a waste of my vote. Is it because I’m intellectually lazy or obstinate? No. I just know from their opening statements that they are working from a premise I do not hold: the elections for president of the United States are legitimate.

I voted for the winner of the past three presidential elections, and Bill Clinton was the only one who actually got into office. And even then, I didn’t know what I was voting for, really. I just knew I didn’t like that weasel whose last name was code for a wimp, and I wanted a saxophone player in the office over him. Yes, that’s how deeply I thought about politics the first time I voted. Sadly, since I’ve become aware of politics and my world, I’ve participated in two of the biggest frauds in American history. Popular vote? That don’t matter none! We done had arselves a elekshun! Two-thirds of the nation doesn’t approve of the incumbent, and yet he gets re-elected? That don’t matter none! We already had arselves a elekshun! An’ besides, them terrists maht git us!

But, I digress…

Until I see proof that our elections have been overhauled, I can’t feel any regret for wasting an already worthless vote. I mean, our elections should (at least superficially) reflect the desires of the people, right? People will go on and on about the same things I used to say. Things like, “this election is too important to throw away.” Well, I’ve got news for anyone who thinks this election is too important: every election is too important to throw away. This is supposed to be a democracy, right? To me, the fact that the elections are rigged is the main issue, not which puppets or parties might be better suited to “run” this nation.

Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate their concern, and in the past I would otherwise be on their side. But I’ve seen and read things that have convinced me that the presidential election is a farce. And, therefore, all assumptions based on the premise that they are legitimate is just plain illogical. So, trying to convince me of the merits of a pseudo-democracy and an archaic electoral system is a complete waste of my time and theirs. I definitely see their point, but it’s just not relevant to me anymore.

October 25 2007

It’s a simple question: What causes global warming?

Here’s a relatively simple answer: Global warming is caused by the greenhouse effect and the increase of anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas concentrations.

And here’s a more complex answer: Look at Mars. It has lost most of its greenhouse gases, and now it’s oceans are gone and its surface is freezing. Now, look at Venus. It has a runaway greenhouse effect, and now it’s atmosphere is so dense that it rains diamonds and it is hot enough to melt metal. All three planets (ours included) formed in the same way at the same time, and their present atmospheres are the result of their pasts.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we’ll end up like either of those planets. For one thing, Venus is closer to the sun, so it’s bound to have higher temperatures. But Venus is so hot because of the greenhouse effect, not just because it’s closer. As for Mars, it’s farther away and colder, but there is strong evidence that it had complete oceans that once covered its surface. Where did the oceans go? Do you think the atmosphere had anything to do with it? Both of these planets are strong warning signs (from the heavens, I might add) about what our planet’s atmosphere is capable of becoming.

And, something is happening. Take a peek at this: http://eric.metze.us/global-temperatures/

I understand taking statistics out of context can be a bad idea (because that graph only goes back a few decades rather than millions of years), but look at the years on the graph and then think about when the Industrial Revolution happened. Is it a coincidence or a correlation?

Or, lets say that we are NOT the cause of global warming. Then that frees us of the burden of having to correct it, right? Wrong. Even if we’re not the cause of it, it’s happening anyway. So, doesn’t it seem like a good idea to plan for the future? You know, get those millions (billions?) of people away from the coming tide changes, or strengthening our homes and buildings so they can survive the increasingly powerful storms, or learning how to deal with all the political unrest (like Darfur) caused by millions of migrating people who are in search of green fields, or, or, or…

The reason this whole discussion bothers me, and the reason I felt the need to talk about it, is because of the politically-motivated distractions caused by the leadership of the Democrats and the Republicans and the inexorably-corrupt media. So when someone wins an award that is supposed to raise global awareness for a cause everyone supports (i.e., a healthy environment to live in), it’s just terribly frustrating that we have to stagnate in a sea of emotion-driven, counter-productive, intentionally-divisive conversations.

October 15 2007

I recently got into another discussion about global warming, and the person I was talking to said they weren’t convinced that humans were the cause of it. Though it’s just foolish to think that the temperature isn’t rising, there is (admittedly) room for debate on how much our presence and actions are affecting the environment. So, I started compiling information into a chart.

If you have updated information or know where I can get this information, please let me know. I am planning on making the above chart much larger so that people can see the information and decide for themselves.

Feel free to bookmark this page and come back to it later (or reference it). I am going to update it as much as I can, and this will be the permanent home for it.

Things to notice:

  • World War 2 appears to have had a direct influence on the global temperature. This is very likely due to the amount of fuel that was consumed, the number of fires that burned throughout that period, and the massive increase in production from the world’s most industrialized nations.
  • Population growth seems to correlate, but does not seem to be the chief reason the temperature rises. This makes sense because it is the actions of humans that seems to be affecting the temperature, not just our mere presence.
  • Every major war seems to have some sort of effect on the global temperature, except for the Vietnam/American war, which seems to have held off the rising temperature until it was finally over. Notice that as soon as the war was over, the temperature starts to rise significantly and steadily.
  • During the gas crunch of the 1970’s, the US and other nations started recognizing the need to improve gas mileage, and yet the average crept up only slightly. If the number of vehicles does not reflect the improved gas mileage, then it stands to reason that this would increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the air.
Global Temperatures from 1880 to 2007
August 5 2007

All late night talk shows (aside from the Daily Show and the Colbert Report) are lame and practically worthless. They’re formulaic, unoriginal, and pander to the widest audience possible. Half of the population has a below-average IQ, so their content has pretty much the same level of complexity. At least the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are topical, intelligent, and genuinely funny almost every night (except for the interviews, which I rarely watch). When one of the other shows makes fun of politicians, it’s watered down because they have a much larger audience to consider.

And I suppose that’s really what I don’t like about the late night shows. They’re all so watered down that they’re uninteresting and almost completely lacking in entertainment value to me. For example, I used to love watching Carson Daly when he first got his late show. He and a guest would sit down and have a chat for half an hour. But, I accidentally tuned in the other day to find a completely different dressed in his skin. Now I absolutely cannot watch Carson Daly for more than ten seconds. He wants to be Johnny Carson so bad, the poor sap.

Why is that? Who knows. But, it’s probably because this is a different generation than Johnny Carson’s. There are different…um…standards that the newer audiences are used to. We like our jokes dirtier (i.e., more genuine) than our parent’s and grandparent’s generations (thank God). Seriously, it’s increasingly strange to think that “dirty” jokes are actually dirty. It’s just a generational thing, that’s all. And so the hosts feel the need to be on the cutting edge, as it were. The content of the jokes changes with each generation, but really, everyone wants to be Johnny Carson.

Also, our generation just LOVES bands. Wee hoo! Boy, do we love bands! Bands and music and American Idol and other mind-numbing stuff to keep us from worrying about reality. We love bands whether they’re good or not, and most of the bands on television these days are completely worthless shit. Every Creed and Nickelback wannabe band (including Creed and Nickelback) just plays into the lame ass standards set forth by producers, not listeners. I mean, a Christian band that has ZERO Christian relevance? What the hell!? But, I digress…

Johnny’s Tonight Show formula has influenced every late show that’s on television right now, as if there’s only one way to do it. EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, it goes something like this:

They introduce the host as though they are the center of the universe, the host comes out to a band and a cheering audience, the crowd cheers for a little while longer, then the host tells a bunch of “topical” jokes, then they mention the band leader, the cameras cut to the band leader who plays a short piece that people might recognize, then they cut back to the host who has magically teleported to their desk, then they have a humorous bit before they go to commercial, they come back from commercial and have another humorous bit, then they introduce their first guest, second guest, musical guest, who could’ve guessed, rinse, repeat. Feh.

I wonder when they’re going to break the mold and try something different…I mean, besides dirtier jokes and better music. If only Johnny was here to help.

August 3 2005

Rainfall has historically been something to look forward to, but India recently has learned firsthand the lesson about having too much of a good thing. As the death toll continues to rise, the rain continues to fall, and the pressures it puts on the people of the region create several social problems. This natural disaster is perhaps a product of an increasingly-unstable environment; every disaster is a reminder of what may come next. It would not have been quite a problem if the area in which it occurred did not suffer from overpopulation, but this fusion of urbanization and erratic weather only compounded the problems.

Increased urbanization, and to a lesser degree the affect of our species on the environment, has led to a disturbing death toll in flooded regions of India. Much of the regions that were affected were in low-lying areas, and were susceptible to this kind of weather. The fact that it happened only proves the dangerous state the locals exists in. If large numbers of people are inadequately housed or protected in these areas, they are much more likely to suffer serious consequences, even by those things that are caused by people in other parts of the world. The connectedness we share with everyone across the world is emphasized when our indirect actions directly affect the lives of others we believe have no connection to us. Though the people of Mumbai and surrounding areas must solve the problem of overpopulation and urbanization themselves, the rest of the industrialized world must do what it can to reduce events like these through responsible energy consumption.

Mumbai, the official name for the city hardest hit by these floods, is more commonly known to Americans as Bombay (4). Hundreds of people have died in Mumbai this past week because of landslides, drowning, electrocution in flooded streets and even suffocation in their cars (6). Mumbai was hit by 37 inches of rainfall on the 26th of July, which was the heaviest downpour in a century (2). Approximately 25,000 sheep and goats, and 2,500 buffaloes also drowned in Mumbai (1). The majority of deaths occurred (and continue to occur) in the lowest-income regions of the cities, where a third of the 12 million people of Mumbai live (3). 60,000 or more villagers are living in temporary camps outside of Mumbai (5).

Because Mumbai is known for its intense economic power, many people seem to be ignoring their plight on the basis that they have the resources to handle the crisis. Locals insist, however, that this is not the case. P. Unnikrishnan of Action Aid International said that the, “media portray Mumbai’s economic might and think receding waters are good. The ground situation is entirely different. Relief materials are only reaching isolated places” (5). The threat to the people is not seen as a threat to the nation’s economy because it is seen as a short-term problem. Consequently, much-needed aid is not getting to those who require it (3). One major problem facing both city officials and locals is the tendency for the suddenly-homeless to wander back to their neighborhoods. Though they do this because they have nowhere else to go, it still creates problems for the local government. It puts more individuals at risk and stresses the already thin emergency response (1).

The Indian government has been criticized for the way they have handled this crisis. Though it was an unavoidable natural disaster, the death tool has led many to ask if it could have been better handled. The response often cited in defense of the government is the absolutely unprecedented amount of rainfall. With over three feet of rain pouring on the city in a single day, it is unlikely that any government could have prevented such an event. Officials contest that their response has been adequate, especially given the unusual nature of the weather (3). The United States has given no official response to this particular issue, though they are undoubtedly aware of it. President Bush does not see a connection between this and global warming, but he is sure that the rain hates freedom.

Many people maintain that the government could not have anticipated this kind of flooding, but there are still those who (perhaps rightfully) find reason to complain. Food and clean water are the most important things to those affected by the flooding, and they desperately need more of it to come their way. As with any considerable social problem, many people are also asking why the aid is not flowing freely to them. In a matter of life and death, though, they can hardly be considered greedy.

Though the vast majority of Americans will not be directly affected by this event, some people will be. Either by family connections or personal interests, not even the fact that this happened on the other side of the planet will keep some people separate from the ordeal. These are the people most likely to be seen asking their fellow Americans to help in the aid effort, which will (though minutely) increase awareness of the issue.

One perspective that may be stressed is the ecological factor. Was this event, something that was extremely disastrous and equally unusual, the result of natural causes or is human activity somehow to blame? This is not an appeal to the deities for possible transgressions on the part of humanity, but a serious question raised by scientists in relevant fields of research. The ecosystem tends to be stable, and sudden instability should is seen as a sudden break from the norm. Far from being a freak occurrence, the flooding in India could be yet another red flag in our handling (or rather, our mishandling) of the environment.

The media has been very balanced in covering the actual events in the past couple weeks. The significant death toll, the fact that it happened to a prosperous country, and the particularly gruesome facts about how people died have appeared in virtually the same manner throughout all of the sources I looked through. The only true differences were in their perspectives, and it was usually based on the publication in which it appeared. The BusinessWeek article, not surprisingly, talked about the losses the country suffered in terms of prospective economic outcomes, while the BBC article focused on the human tragedy created by the flooding. Very few articles, it should be noted, mentioned the potential correlation between this event and human impression upon the environment, though there were a few mentions of it.

To the issue of problems created by urbanization of the area, only local changes will effectively resolve how to handle a major flood such as this. Fortunately, this kind of catastrophe is rare, and future problems will be much easier to deal with. As for the deeper, more elusive cause of the flooding itself, we should look to the skies, literally. If it is revealed that we have had no impact on the environment, and this was just a freak incident, then there is nothing to worry about as there is nothing we can do to prevent it. However, if it is later discovered that this downpour (and other weather events like it) are indeed the result of our interaction with the environment, then all humans share a duty to confront these issues and solve them quickly and appropriately.

List of Works Consulted
1. “India Monsoon Death Toll Rises to 910.” Fox News. <http://foxnews.com/>
2. “India’s Rains May Ease, Bringing Relief to Flood-Hit Mumbai.” Bloomberg.com. <http://bloomberg.com/>
3. Mahapatra, Rajesh. “Bombay floodings batter country’s image.” BusinessWeek Online. <http://businessweek.com/>
4. “Monsoon death toll in India about 1,000.” Science Daily. <http://sciencedaily.com/>
5. “Mumbai struggles back to normal.” BBC News. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/>
6. “Torrential rains pound Mumbai.” CNN. <http://cnn.com/>

August 1 2005

The Texas Education Agency is going to release its findings on the academic performance of Texas public schools today, and the labels that they assign to each school could greatly influence many districts. The ratings given to each school affect the students, the faculty, the funding, and even the property value of the area around them. They have raised the standards for these tests from the previous one, which is putting pressure on many schools to start reforms. This topic is very timely, especially considering they will release the results only hours after this article is written. Since this is about Texas education, it could not be more appropriate. The issues that created and surround this topic raise a variety of social problems, with just as many opinions on how they may be resolved.

The most notable concern with these results is how the rating given to each school will affect the school itself. Some complain that the test is unfairly biased, and that it, in turn, will place unfair bias upon certain schools. They see the social inequality inherent in this system as its greatest flaw. Besides this concern, students must deal with increasingly heightened standards and the potential for a handful of students to bring an entire school down. Despite how these ratings affect the individual, we must consider the larger picture of how it affects the educational quality around the state. This could be a genuine attempt at some much-needed improvement in the state educational system, or it could be a political ploy with very little true political backing.

The TEA will release the ratings on their web site and they will discuss the details at a news conference all at 1p.m. today, August 1, 2005 (3). The school accountability system was created by the TEA eleven years ago and restructured in 2003 (1). The results of the ratings will be on this web site: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/ (6). The ratings entail financial punishments and incentives based on the school’s performance (2). This is the first of two pieces of information to be released by the TEA before the next school year, the latter of which they will release on August 11 (4).

There are four ratings a school or district can receive: the lowest is “academically unacceptable,” which means they scored below the required criteria; next is “academically acceptable,” which means that 25% passed science, 35% passed math and 50% passed language arts and social studies, 75% completion rate of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, 50% of State Developed Alternative Assessment II students met committee expectations, and the school had a 2% or less dropout rate; third is “recognized,” which means that 70% of students had to pass each TAKS tests and/or meet committee expectations on the SDAA II, an 85% completion rate, and a 0.7% or less dropout rate; and finally there is the “exemplary” status, which means that the school had 90% of students pass each TAKS test and/or met committee expectations on the SDAA II, 95% complete their grade or graduate, and only 0.2% or fewer drop out (5).

The primary source of information to base these ratings on is the TAKS test, which is a standardized testing system. Standardized testing has certain recognized flaws that could be a detriment to certain sections of the community. With its focus on percentages, it puts smaller schools at a disadvantage if a few of their students are not performing well. And with the ethnic bias in standardized testing, it unfairly affects minority students.

One scenario that is likely to play out is one where a predominantly white and wealthy district earns a top rating but a low-income district earns a lower rating. This could occur because the wealthier former district is smaller. Though the latter district did better overall, they remain at a lower tier, with all the punishments that go along with that rating (6). The nature of the award/punishment system also encourages self-fulfilled prophecies. A school system that is at a disadvantage to begin with gets hit with sanctions because it fell just below the level of academic acceptability.

In many ways, the TAKS test and the TEA school accountability system is the official response to this issue. The government is trying to raise academic standards and apply them fairly to the students of Texas. Whether they are successful or not is something that will be up for debate. However, this is essentially how the politicians are handling the issue. Still, an official response to this issue “that is, the unfair nature of the current testing system” should be forthcoming.

The public reaction to the current system generally depends on how your school or district fares in the rating system. While those who are set to benefit from it seem less concerned with the problems with the system (4), those who suffer from it are apt to point out its flaws (2). This does not mean these criticisms are unfounded, however. It is easy to see how the system could treat some schools unfairly. This mentality of reinforcing the idea that a school is defunct, rather than trying to improve it, shows a tendency to snuff out the “bad” schools so that the “good” ones can thrive.

Economically, this could hurt our nation because, over time, we are diverting attention away from our most valuable resource: people. The better educated a society is, the better the general quality of life is for all members of the society. If this trend of putting the disadvantaged at a greater disadvantage continues forever, it places serious strains on various aspects of our lives. A poorly-managed educational system could lead to greater tension between ethnic groups, an increased gap between the educated and uneducated, and more clearly-defined social classes.

The media has been relatively objective on this issue, though it is interesting to read each perspective from across the state. There are a few times when the wording of an article is favorable or unfavorable of the system, and one is tempted to tie their general attitude to the performance of the local school system. The El Paso Times, for example, was one of only two sources I found that mentioned the racial problems inherent in the TAKS testing system (2).

Few of these sources were written from the same perspective, as most of them were from random places around the state. Each article puts the focus of today’s ratings for the perspective of the local schools. It seemed that no matter where in the state the source came from, they were concerned with the toughened standards, the somewhat biased nature of the testing system, and what the rating their school receives will mean to the area.

Depending on how the ratings fall, it could shape the very future of many school systems. Schools that are lacking may find themselves in a tougher environment, or shut down altogether. Exemplary schools may find their status lowered to “recognized,” causing some families to find other schools. Still yet are those school which may receive a considerable boost from a raise in rating, attracting the same students that abandoned their once-exemplary schools.

It seems that with the state’s school evaluation systems can be more effectively managed proper attention, cooperation, and study. There should be a way to assess and address the needs of schools that are in need of improvement without the threat of removing them completely. Our educational system on the whole is in need of improvement, and the best way to solve that is from the “bottom” and work our way up.

List of Works Consulted
1. The Galveston County Daily News. Texas Education Agency to release new ratings. http://galvestondailynews.com/
2. El Paso Times Local news. Districts expect lower ratings released today. http://borderlandnews.com/
3. The Longview News-Journal. Schools to get ratings today. http://news-journal.com/
4. The Waco Tribune-Herald. Public school ratings to be released today. http://wacotrib.com/
5. Star-Telegram. Schools prepare to hear new rank. http://dfw.com/
6. Star-Telegram. School test rankings only part of formula, some say. http://dfw.com/

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