Nice Job, Glenn!

March 14, 2008

If you read this blog regularly, you have probably noticed a recurring theme: That I am ashamed of the lack of personal accountability shown by my fellow citizens of the United States.

Having said that, here is a really good article by Glenn Beck from “Headline News”:

http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/03/14/beckfloridamichigan/index.html

It is nicely written and makes some really excellent points… Nice Job, Glenn!

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Voters say… When the going gets tought, make the going tougher.

March 5, 2008

This post falls somewhere between a political commentary, a rant, and a bunch of angry drivel directed at my fellow Ohioans. As I am sure you already know, Hillary Clinton won the Ohio Democratic Primary yesterday.

With that being said…

I have lived in the state for my entire life. My father has also lived here his whole life. Deep down, I would really, truly like to see Ohio and its citizens do well and prosper, but Ohio has been on a progressive downward spiral since about 1995. If you listen to local radio or read the local Ohio newspapers, all you hear or read is about how everyone is sick of the dwindling economy, stagnant wages, and politicians who don’t seem to care to make any real difference. You would really get the impression that the citizens of Ohio really want things to change for the better. There is, however, one huge problem preventing Ohio from making any headway…

Whenever Ohio’s citizens are presented with an opportunity to change things for the better, they completely blow it. It is as if they are all hell-bent on their own destruction.

Yesterday, the voters of Ohio continued this trend.

NAFTA was passed in January of 1994. Prior to this “free trade agreement”, which was actually more like an incentive for domestic businesses to move their production elsewhere, Ohio’s economy was flourishing… Since NAFTA, Ohio’s economy has progressively (maybe “rapidly” would be more fitting) declined. Why? Ohio’s economy has historically been EXTREMELY dependent on manufacturing. Ohio once had flourishing steel mills, auto manufacturing plants providing good jobs to thousands, and machine shops employing the majority of Ohio’s manufacturing base. After NAFTA, this all went to Mexico.

Many politicians still stand behind this failed trade agreement, justifying their support by citing an increase in the number of U.S. jobs and a lower unemployment rate. When closely examined, the effect on Ohio was devastating. Machine shop jobs that payed upwards of $50,000 a year have been replaced by jobs at Wal-Mart paying $7 an hour. It would seem that the average Ohio citizen doesn’t seem to understand that this is the case, and that NAFTA has been extremely harmful to their way of life… but unsurprisingly, most Ohio citizens do understand the impact of NAFTA, as they have been the people who have had to give up their $50,000/yr. jobs for the $7/hr. jobs.

This fact… the idea that the citizens of Ohio do understand the negative impact of NAFTA… brings me to the point of this post.

HILLARY CLINTON SUPPORTED NAFTA. HER HUSBAND WAS NAFTA’S CHAMPION.

She has conveniently said in her campaign that she has always been against NAFTA… what a joke! I can hear her now… “Bill, please, please don’t pass NAFTA”. She is a socialist! She has ALWAYS supported free trade!

Does she really think that the voters of Ohio are dumb enough to believe that crap?!

I was hopeful that Ohio’s voters would see through her double-talk…

I am now convinced that I am either surrounded by masochists or complete idiots.


A Small Step in the Right Direction

February 8, 2008

Today, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that the electric chair satisfies the criteria for ‘cruel and unusual’ punishment, eliminating its use on a state-wide basis. Nebraska was the only state remaining that used the electric chair as its sole means of execution.

I have written about the topic of capital punishment before (https://goingbald.wordpress.com/2008/01/22/are-we-there-yet/) and I am adamantly against the use of capital punishment, so needless to say I feel that this is a small step towards a more civilized U.S. society.

Why outlaw the electric chair? How is it cruel and unusual punishment? Here are a few brief examples from the Death Penalty Information Center (WARNING: If you are sensitive to graphic writing, skip this section and then ask yourself how you can justify punishing people this way if you can’t even read about it!):

Frank Coppola, 1982, Virginia: Two 55 second jolts of electricity were required to kill Mr. Coppola. During the second, Coppola’s head and leg caught fire and the sizzling sound of burning flesh could be heard in the room.

Allen Lee Davis, 1999, Florida: Mr. Davis was the first man to be executed in Florida’s new electric chair. Before he was pronounced dead, blood seeped onto his shirt from his mouth (reports state that the spot it formed was the size of a dinner plate). Florida’s senator, Ginny Brown-Waite, admitted that she was shocked to see the blood until she noticed that it was forming what she thought was a cross on his chest, indicating that “God approved of the execution.” (I have to interject and say that Ms. Brown-Waite sounds like a real wacko)

These are just a couple examples of what amounts to state-sponsored torture. Run a search for ‘botched executions’ and you will find dozens more. Unfortunately, other forms of capital punishment are still legal in many states. The most common currently used is lethal injection. It too is a real gem.

Joseph Cannon, 1998, Texas: After beginning the procedure, the vein in his arm collapsed and the needle popped out. When he saw what happened, Cannon had to tell the executioners “It’s come undone.” The officials closed the curtain to the witness room, re-opening it 15 minutes later to reveal a sobbing Cannon, who made a second last statement before the procedure resumed.

I think that it is important to understand that I in no way sympathize with these people… they murdered others to receive this sentence. I simply question whether it is appropriate to punish the crimes that these people have committed by committing the same crime against them. I also, like the Nebraska Supreme Court, question whether the methods used are appropriate… no human deserves to be tortured at the hands of another.

These methods, and capital punishment in general, have been condemned by other countries, scholars, philosophers, and even the Pope. What will it take for the people of the U.S. to acknowledge this cruel and unusual practice for what it is?


Remember the 4th Amendment, or was that just a silly detail?

February 7, 2008

I recommend that anyone who does not know the rights given to us by the 4th amendment review the constitution before reading this article…

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23037049

Evidently when you are coming into and going out of the country the federal agents can do whatever the heck they want to you or your stuff.

A fictional, but likely airport encounter:

Stunned traveler: “Hey, don’t you need a search warrant to go through my cell phone or laptop? When will I get that back?”

Federal Agent: “Look lady, I’ll go through what I want whenever I want. You might get it back and you might not. My ol’ lady needs a new laptop.”

I can understand the whole “national security/anti-terrorism” concept, but this is getting absolutely ridiculous. This lady’s company laptop was seized… she was told she would get it back in 10 to 15 days. A year later she still hasn’t seen her laptop or received an explanation. Another person handed over their cell phone… when it was returned the call history had been erased.

I find this absolutely infuriating. What gives a border agent the right to take and search your stuff with no probable cause?

This is a serious infringement on our constitutionally protected rights… hopefully anyone who reads this will take it as seriously as it is.


Is this a joke?

February 1, 2008

Yesterday, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that the city of Akron’s law regarding the ‘cop-in-a-box’ speeding cameras is not unconstitutional. Basically, the law says that if one of these cameras catches you speeding, you are definitely, absolutely going to get a ticket. Anyone ever heard of ‘due-process’?

It gets better:

It doesn’t matter if you were driving… just that it was your car (parents, don’t let your kids drive your car).

Here is a quote from their opinion:

“While the state statute punishes the driver of the vehicle directly, the Akron ordinance imposes a fine on a vehicle’s owner, who may or may not be the driver at the time of the violation. Ultimately regardless of the actor who performs it, the actual conduct prohibited — exceeding speed limits — is the same. When a municipal ordinance does nothing more than prohibit the same conduct prohibited by state statute, there is no conflict between the two.”

You’ve got to be kidding me. If someone steals my car and goes whizzing down the road, I can get a ticket? This almost has to be a joke. What if my girlfriend (or parents) takes my car to the grocery store and speeds past one of these things?

I am dumbfounded by this one. Clearly the ordinance was enacted to make a few bucks off of people who are speeding, and the Supreme Court has no issue with it.

Unreal.

(see the full opinion here http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/Communications_Office/summaries/2008/0131/062265.asp)


The True Value of Diversity

January 28, 2008

What is diversity?

I am 25 years old, fairly young, probably still very naive, and I have lived my entire life in northern Ohio. Anyone from the area can tell you that Ohio is not exactly the capital of diversity in any sense, and if anyone tries to tell you that it is they are either very sheltered or they are fooling themselves. Having grown up in an area where everyone is essentially ‘like’ you, recognizing the value of diversity can be a very, very challenging task.

Upon starting my first ‘corporate’ job (working for a fortune 100 company) a couple of years ago, I was quickly put through a week-long ‘diversity training program’ that was supposed to be designed to help all employees recognize and appreciate the ‘value’ of a diverse workforce. After the first day of the training, I was pretty disappointed to find out that the ‘diversity training program’ was actually nothing more than a ‘try to tolerate your neighbors and don’t make fun of anyone at work’ training program.

I have to admit that prior to beginning my graduate degree last year I thought that I knew what diversity was and why it was important. While growing up, I had friends from other races and ethnic backgrounds… so I knew what diversity was, right? When I began my graduate program I saw that diversity is something entirely different…

Do we need to take another look at how we view diversity?

The standard method of teaching diversity in the U.S. has remained unchanged for quite some time, and I think that it may be time that we re-examine our methods.

In most elementary schools, children are first introduced to the concept of diversity by teaching them through various ‘holiday traditions exercises’… in other words, the first exposure to learning about the value of diversity that many American children receive is learning that diversity means ‘jewish kids celebrate Hanukkah’, or that ‘some african cultures celebrate Kwanzaa’, etc… as children continue into middle and high school, this approach changes to more of a ‘tolerance-based’ approach, essentially focusing on the idea that we all inhabit this earth together, and that we need to accept each other’s differences in order to get along… is this what diversity is? Does learning about diversity and cultural differences have no value other than tolerance? We seem to be telling our children (from a very young age) “Sure, we are all different, and it makes things tough… Get over it.”

More disturbingly, there is a strong movement in schools to eliminate these ‘holiday celebrations’ altogether. Although they are going about teaching diversity the wrong way, some mention of it is better than none. Numerous lawsuits have been brought forth in the past few years aimed at removing from classrooms any acknowledgment of the cultural differences that makes us all unique. Evidently, teaching children that their friends may celebrate other holidays because they belong to another religion is infringing upon their rights… Would they truly be better off by ignoring the fact that not everyone believes the same things they do? Evidently some socially conservative whack-jobs think so (and I must admit, I am fairly socially conservative when it comes to religion).

The Right Way to Teach Diversity

When I began my graduate studies, I was for the first time in my life surrounded by (and forced to work in close proximity with) people from numerous other cultures. In a matter of days, I went from having no concept of what diversity truly is to working face-to-face on a daily basis with people from India, Nepal, Croatia, Nigeria, Ghana, Vietnam, China, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, etc…

The experience of working with (and learning from) people from so many different cultures and backgrounds has been truly priceless. I have developed numerous technical and analytical skills and have had many experiences in my studies that will benefit me as my career progresses, but none of them compare to the insight I have gained from working and studying with the international students. It has become very apparent to me that the true value of understanding diversity is not the ability to be tolerant of those around you… the true value lies in the diversity itself and is a result of the various life experiences, outlooks, beliefs, and cultural differences that each member of society brings to the table. If we can learn to appreciate the value of each individual’s unique set of knowledge and beliefs, then tolerance will be a simple consequence of respecting and valuing the ideas and thoughts of others. Rather than teaching tolerance in our schools and workplaces, we should teach the concept that when we may not have the right answer to whatever problem we are facing, someone from a different background may have a unique and valuable perspective.


The Next Big Credit Crunch

January 25, 2008

Contrary to what the mass media would have you believe, Generation Y has more on its agenda than obsessing over Britney Spears, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton, and Facebook. As a matter of fact, most members of Generation Y in the U.S. will attend college, and many will graduate. Many may even continue on to pursue degrees in medicine, law, or other advanced degrees. Along the way, they will develop their understanding of the world around them, make new friends, and possibly even have a good time while doing it. If they are like most other modern college students, they will also rack up a massive amount of debt.

The Expense

College has become somewhat of a necessity for the modern American youth. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when only the most wealthy, driven, or inquisitive people continued their education following high school, but now almost every child from the ‘middle class’ feels compelled to go to college or risk having no real chance at wealth and the ever foggier definition of ‘success’.

But what is the real value of a college education? Does it guarantee a lucrative job offer? Does it truly improve your earning potential over the duration of your career? If so, how much debt does it justify accruing?

Here are the facts:

The average bachelor’s degree recipient will graduate with between $19,000 and $40,000 in debt. The average graduate student will graduate with an additional $31,700 in debt beyond what they accrued during their undergraduate studies. Law and medical students will graduate with $91,700 in debt on average.

At a local State University, the current tuition rate for a full time undergrad student is $4200 a semester. Add to this the expense of a dorm room and meal plan, and you can add an additional $8000 per year. This totals $16400 per year over an average of 5 years for a total cost of $82000. Ouch. You better hope that the lucrative job offer comes through… but will it?

Law students are an excellent case in point. Many, if not most, will graduate with about $100,000 worth of student loans. Payed back over the course of 25 years at an interest rate of 8%, this amounts to a monthly payment of $771.82 a month… no problem for a newly minted lawyer, right?

Wrong.

The average starting salary for a first year law associate is roughly $46,000 a year. Take out taxes and a 401k contribution and a new lawyer is taking home about $2500 a month. If they plan on starting a family, this could be a real problem. For students who rack up this kind of debt and graduate with a degree in a field like education or the liberal arts, they are screwed.

The Next Credit Meltdown

This all sounds real scary, but most college students aren’t in this position, right?

Wrong again. Look at the facts.

This could be the foundation for an economic crisis larger than the housing crisis that we have been feeling the effects of lately. With so much debt, many of these students will have two options: pay off their student loans and live in an apartment until they are 50, or try to buy a house and start a family. If they go with the latter option, it seems obvious that either the house or the student loans will go into default, and you can bet that both the student loan provider and the bank who owns the mortgage will want their money. Will the government step in with another plan to help Generation Y save their homes? I imagine we will find out in another 10 to 15 years.

‘Ethics’ and ‘Student Loan Provider‘ – Two phrases that don’t belong in the same sentence.

Why hasn’t this issue already been addressed? Because both the schools and the student loan providers stand to benefit from taking advantage of the students.

In mid-2007, a huge scandal involving numerous student loan providers and school officials was exposed. The situation basically involved the student loan providers offering incentives to school financial aid officers for ‘selling’ their loans to students. JPMorgan Chase spent $74,000 wining and dining more than 200 school officials on a cruise ship. They also employed five college student loan officers at the bank while they were still employed at the university. At Columbia University in New York, the head of financial aid was suspended (yes, suspended, not fired) when it was discovered that he had earned $100,000 on stock in a loan company that he regularly recommended to students. The government took measures to ensure that this would be discouraged in the future and to prohibit student loan officers from accepting ‘gifts’ from banks for selling student loans, but the damage had already been done to the countless number of students who had already been sold into loans that they may not have understood or needed. Who are the schools really looking out for, anyway? Shouldn’t they be looking out for what is in the best interest of their students?

In any case, what is done is done. It seems that the legislation that was passed in 2007 was enough to ‘smooth things over’ and get everyone to turn their heads while the future generations of the U.S. are duped into an over-priced education by banks and corrupt university officials looking to make a quick buck. Our politicians will continue to argue about the merits of universal health care and ‘the war against terror’ while Generation Y digs itself into a hole of debt from which there is no escape. Eventually, the misfortune of America’s youth will be the misfortune of America’s economy. Our leaders had better take notice.