Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ghost Are Real...Get Over It

A common reason people give to explain away ghosts is they have never seen one. But there are many things in this world people have never seen. People living on a remote island in the south Pacific having probably never seen a car. And yet we would laugh if one of them told us that cars do not exist. I guess this reason sticks out in my mind because I have seen ghosts. I have seen them so I have no problem believing in them. But believing in something you have never seen is a common practice of just about every world religion. Why then, is it so much of a stretch from ghosts to God?
People seem to be afraid to take things on faith. I think this stems from the untrusting nature of people and the fact that we are afraid of things bigger than ourselves. As a group, people tend to mistrust each other over just about anything. This explains why a person will not believe in something they have not seen. They do not trust the source. Or they do not trust that they will ever see it, so they dismiss the thoughts of it altogether.
People are also afraid of their own existence being insignificant. By ruling out ghosts and the supernatural altogether, humans can place themselves at the top of existence. This makes people feel better about themselves and leaves those looking for the supernatural in the same place as the mentally ill. In my opinion, if human beings are the end-all-be-all of existence, that is very sad. But the comfort factor always wins out. If something has never been seen, then the zone of protection around our top-notch existence has not been breached. To say ghosts exist, is to say that people are just another animal. Or people are just a tiny speck in the huge expanse of the universe. That realization can be very unnerving to some people. So, people have created a delusion that has been passed down through the ages that being seen is the key to existence. If something is out of sight, it is out of mind and all the people can go about their daily lives comfortable in their own existence.
It is in the arms of science where others find comfort from the existence of ghosts. Since science has no hard proof that ghosts exist, this must mean they do not. In fact, science is to blame for the stigma put on belief in all supernatural occurrences. With the Enlightenment, came a new way of thinking. For science, this meant a radical move away from the normal search for knowledge and toward an arrogant view of the natural world. Ghosts and the like must not be real because they cannot be tested in a laboratory or made in a test tube. For this reason, paranormal study was banished to the realm of superstition and folklore.
One of the key principals in science is the continuing search for knowledge. Another is no matter how much or how little evidence exist on a subject, that subject cannot be completely proved or disproved. What this means is science is suppose to deal only in ideas. Science does not deal in absolutes. An example of this is the theory that all living things are made of cells. For this particular subject, there is a multitude of experimental data that points to the truth in this statement. Yet, any scientist that tells you all living things are made of cells beyond a shadow of a doubt is either a bad scientist or stupid. That scientist should know viruses throw the proverbial “monkey wrench” into the theory. It is not known if viruses can be considered living or nonliving. But if they are considered living, the theory of cells in all living things has doubt cast upon it.
When I was in college, one of the things my science class professors tried to drive home was scientists never prove anything. They only help build a case for something to possibly be a good idea. Why then are ghosts and other supernatural occurrences immediately ruled out by much of the scientific community? I think it has to do with the arrogance and assumptions of the Enlightenment. Scientists took it upon themselves to rationally and logically explain everything in nature. To do this, they first had to assume that nature works in a rational and logical way. With this assumption in place, things that did not fit the pattern of nature, as they saw it, where immediately dismissed as the workings of a troubled mind. And that put ghost hunters high atop their list of crazy people.
The question is not whether ghosts exist; it is why do people not believe in ghosts? Some will say that not seeing something means it does not exist. However, there are many things on this Earth that we cannot and have not seen. But these things still exists. Others people turn to science and its lack of evidence on ghosts. Evidence for the existence of ghosts does exist. However, over the course of human history, science has given paranormal study a negative connotation and this evidence has remained unchecked by objective eyes. Religion is another excuse given for the nonexistence of ghosts. But with all the fantastic events of the Bible, how can one not believe in something as simple as ghosts? Though they give many reasons, the main reason seems to be because ghosts make people uncomfortable. Ghosts are an affront to the meaning of existence. If they exist, they question the human status as the top level of being. As long as comfort is a top priority of people, the existence of ghosts will always remain in the realm of fiction. Perhaps one day, paranormal will be normal and the negative stigma given to the field will be lifted in the continuing search for knowledge.

Monday, October 30, 2006

World Series Champs In Most Dangerous City

The St. Louis Cardinals may be the World Series Champs, but their home city isn't safe. In fact, it has been found to be the most dangerous city in the United States. Many factors play into these statistic, but it has to make people just a little uneasy to know that living in St. Louis is not as safe as it may have been in the past.
The problems in St. Louis are a result of "a trend of violent crimes rising much faster in the Midwest than in the rest of nation." Apparently, the Heartland of the US has become a much more dangerous place in recent years. But St. Louis has always done poorly when compared to other cities in terms of safety. What finally pushed it to the top of the list was a "violent crime surge of nearly 20 percent in St. Louis from 2004 to last year."
St. Louis, of course, is not sitting idlely by and remaining at the top of this list. Being home to a World Series team changes things. In recent years, the city "has been spending millions of dollars on urban renewal even as the crime rate climbs." They are trying. And other cities should definitely follow in their example. At least try to fix the problem. Don't let it fester and become worse.
St. Louis replaced Camden, New Jersey as the most dangerous city. In Camden, the mayor appeared as if she had won the World Series of mayors. Gwendolyn Faison was thrilled to learn that her city no longer topped the most-dangerous list. "You made my day!" said Faison, who has served since 2000. "There's a new hope and a new spirit." Faison's city is followed on the list of dangerous cities by "Detroit, followed by Flint, Michigan, and Compton, California."
Of course the list is not all bad news. Along with the most dangerous cities, is also a list of the safest cities in America. That list includes "Brick, New Jersey, with a population about 78,000, followed by Amherst, New York, and Mission Viejo, California." These cities should be an example for the rest of the nation. It is possible to lower crime rates nationwide. Other cities should try and adapt what these safe cities have done to make their own better.
I am a realist. I know that a city cannot be 100% safe. But I am also hopeful that cities can be made safer. It starts at home. And it continues in local government. Be active in your city and make your leaders work on the problems. It can be done.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Scientists Show Arrogance On Supernatural Question

I have been fascinated with science since I was a small boy. In fact, that fascination led to my career as a science teacher and amateur scientist. I consider myself very knowledgeable in most matters of science. I can explain the different theories of science to the average person. I can also argue a point using scientific information. But one trait of science that I have not picked up is the arrogance of scientists toward the supernatural. Many scientists will say that it is obvious that things such as ghosts and vampires do not exist. I disagree. I think the jury is still out on the paranormal. But what do I know, I'm just a teacher?
This anger toward science on this point stems from articles like the one I read today on Yahoo News. In it, one scientist is interviewed who says that it is obvious ghosts, vampires and zombies do not and cannot exist. Yet, in true scientists form, gives a vague explanation as to why. The scientist in this case is physicist Costas Efthimiou. He says, "Surveys show American gullibility for the supernatural." What exactly is he talking about?
On the subject of ghosts, Efthimiou says they "violate Newton's law of action and reaction. If ghosts walk, their feet apply force to the floor, but if they go through walls they are without substance." First off, Efthimiou perception of ghosts is shortsighted. No one claims that all ghosts are visible, walk on floors, or go through walls. The professor is obviously drawing his information on ghosts from pop culture which tends to blur the actual cases. Secondly, Efthimiou invokes the "laws" of Newtonian physics. He fails to mention that some of Newton's laws have been found to have many exceptions. In his statement on ghosts, Efthimiou is showing the arrogance of science that will not allow them to have exceptions to scientific rules. Many scientific studies have been done dealing with ghosts. The findings of these studies show scientifically that we do not fully understand the things we refer to as ghosts. Just like Efthimiou does not fully understand physics. He only knows what other scientists know.
The arrogance of science that has been mentioned deals with the unwillingness of some scientists to change their ideas of nature. We must accept that we don't know everything. And that is scary to scientist because it deals in the realm of paranormal.
On vampires, Efthimiou is even more unaccepting. He states, "If a vampire sucked one person's blood each month — turning each victim into an equally hungry vampire — after a couple of years there would be no people left, just vampires." Again, he is pulling all the information he knows from pop culture. True vampire myth or story does not state that all people bitten by vampire turn into vampires afterwards. In this case, the professor is simply dismissing the possibility of vampires based on those silly movies he has seen. He has no scientific evidence to show otherwise.
And that is the main problem. To disprove supernatural beliefs, a scientist must have scientific evidence. And at this point, scientists have none. Scientist cannot disprove ghosts or vampires. They can only arrogantly point out that believing in such things is silly. They can also quote surveys that say "1 in 3 Americans believe houses can be haunted or more than 20 percent of Americans believe in witches and that people can communicate with the dead." Maybe science needs to catch up with what common people already know. Instead of trying to disprove the paranormal, why not work to support it. You may just get a surprise. There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy. The statement was true when Shakespeare wrote it and it is still true today.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Homosexual But Equal

In the State of New Jersey, the most crowded state in the union, one court decision has changed the face the the Gay Rights movement. In my opinion, it should be just another step in the direction of equal rights for all Americans. It is part of a new Civil Rights movement in this country. Only this time, color and creed have nothing to do with it.
It seems that in the course of American history, we have always had a group of individuals that are hated above all others. And at each of these points in history, America has failed time and again to give these people equal rights. Each time the majority leaders have fought at every turn to deny these groups of having the same life as the rest of us. Why is America so intolerant?
One could go on for hours detailing the struggles of Native Americans, Blacks, Asians, Irish, Polish, Jewish, or Mexican peoples in this country. And one could also spend an equal amount of time on the new struggle for equality for homosexuals. This case in New Jersey has brought that struggle back up from its short hibernation in the media.
Yesterday, the New Jersey Supreme Court said, "state lawmakers must provide the rights and benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples. " In other words, according to the Supreme Court of New Jersey, it is unconstitutional to deny same-sex couples the right to marry and have all the benefits of marriage from the state. And now, in New Jersey at least, a spark of hope for the future. Some portion of total equality is handed down.
The court was split in a 4-3 vote. But according the court records, those 3 that did not rule in favor of the decision said, "the court should have extended full marriage rights to homosexuals, without kicking the issue back to legislators." So really, all the justices agreed. It is definitely a step in the right direction. But of course it does not come that easy.
Those that hate the idea of equal rights had some things to say about the ruling. Among them, Sen. Sam Brownback said, "the New Jersey decision warrants swift, decisive action by Congress in the form of passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment." Which means he does not think everyone should have equal rights to marry. Yet he gives no reason why. None of the hate-mongers in government or anti-gay groups can give a reason. They simple spread their message of hate across the country and create even more obstacles to equal rights for everyone. But with their hate, they strengthen the resolve of supporters and fuel this new Civil Rights movement.
The bill in the New Jersey legislator does have a chance. Supporters of the bill announced that three legislators have already agreed to introduce a bill soon. In a statement that came with this announcement, Steven Goldstein of Garden State Equality said, "only over our dead bodies will we settle for less than 100 percent marriage equality." And the fight continues. And until all Americans have equal rights, no one should stop fighting for this cause.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Mr. Bush, Don't Build Your Fence

In the 1980's, the president at the time sent a clear message to the Soviet Union about the Berlin Wall. In America, the wall was viewed as an affront to freedom. And it is true that at different points in history, walls have been built to keep people out. They were built to deny them free entry into a country or city. The Walls of Jericho, the Great Wall of China, and Hadrian's Wall are all examples of fortifications against free movement. In the 21st century, the notion still exist among leaders that the easiest way to keep someone out is to build a wall. Or in this case a fence. However, the American people are not so happy as the White House would like them to be.
The proposal is "building a 700-mile fence along the border" with Mexico. A proposal that many Republicans, including the President, would love to see happen. But Americans do not agree. In a recent poll, "only 45 percent said they wanted a border fence built." While that is a large percentage, its not a majority. History teaches that walls come from a place of hatred and oppression. I don't think many Americans want one in their backyard. Instead, "58 percent said they would support large fines on employers who hire illegal immigrants."
And that is a step in the right direction. I think the real solution is in actually guarding our border from illegal crossers. It is not racist to say that I do not want people coming into America illegally. I think it is perfectly ok for someone to come here legally and live, work, and get schooling. But I think there are proper channels. We need to streamline these avenues so more people will use them. If this continues, our country will have more illegal citizens than it knows how to deal with. More security on the borders is the answer. Leave the walls in China.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Humans: Eaters of Worlds

In the Marvel Comics universe, the Fantastic Four battle a gigantic being know as Galactus. He is a being that revives his life-force by eating planets. More than once, Galactus has set his eyes on Earth only to be stopped each time by the heroes of Marvel. But it is not Galactus that threatens our world outside the pages of comic books. It is something much more controllable. Our biggest enemy is our own consumption. As a species, humans are on pace to rid the world of its resources in less that 50 years.
One way to measure the amount of resources available is to measure the amount of biodiversity on the planet. This deals with the number of species that exists and where they live. According to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), "Populations of many species, from fish to mammals, had fallen by about a third from 1970 to 2003 largely because of human threats such as pollution, clearing of forests and overfishing." In short, we are eating the planet out of house and home.
The growing human population is the biggest threat. More people means more resources are needed. And there is simply not enough to go around, according to scientists. "For more than 20 years we have exceeded the earth's ability to support a consumptive lifestyle that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path," said the WWF report. If we measure resources in terms of planets the size of Earth, the human population "will need two planets' worth of natural resources every year by 2050 ." Two planets worth!!! In case some haven't noticed, we only have one planet. And there are no others for us to use. This is a grim outlook for the human species.
Not surprising is the fact that the United States is the second biggest problem in terms of consumption of world resources. Only the United Arab Emirates are using more resources per capita that the US. Following the US are Finland and Canada. To give you some idea of just how bad it is, if the entire world consumed as much as Americans do, by 2050, "we would need five planets to support us."
Of course the solution to all of this is very simple. "Everyone would have to change lifestyles -- cutting use of fossil fuels and improving management of everything from farming to fisheries." And it is as simple as that. We HAVE to do these things. We don't have a choice. We cannot continue to believe that the planet is going to have an infinite supply of resources for everyone's consumption. It simply isn't true. And we are not sure when we will actually run out. The major problem, according to the report, is "people are turning resources into waste faster than nature can turn waste back into resources."
As a species we must unite on this effort. We need to MAKE our governments create and enforce VERY strict standards on the consumption of resources. This isn't a joke. The world's population is increasing at an alarming rate. At present, it is at 6.5 billion. But by 2050 it will have rocketed to 9 billion. If we don't find a solution now, it will be too late by then. In 2050, I'll be 75 years old. I want to think that humans will still exists instead of eating ourselves into extinction.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ford: Built Tough But Not Efficient

It was announced today that Ford had its worst earning period in 14 years. The company had a net loss of 5.8 billion. That's an incredible amount of money and it costs workers' their jobs. Ford and GM have been on the decline in the past few years for a number of reason. Chief among these is the fact they refuse to change with the times and make more efficient cars. But this announcement from Ford should change that.
New chief executive Alan Mulally said, " We know where we are with our business and we know why we are where we are." But do they really? Ford and GM are America's home car companies. They make the cars most Americans consider classics. But they, much like America, refuse to change with the times. Ford has taken the first step. It has gone where GM has yet to tread. Of all the cars Ford makes, one is a hybrid. One out of hundreds of models is environmentally friendly. One out of many more is in line with the times. And now I hope Ford sees this is the problem.
GM is in the same position as Ford. It too looks to lose a substantial amount of money in the coming years and workers' jobs will follow. Unlike Ford, GM has no hybrid models. As of yet, GM has no plans to create any hybrid models. In fact, one of GM's biggest concerns is the re-release of the Chevy Camero for 2009. Wonder if it will get more than 10 miles to the gallon? Doubt it.
I own a GM made car. It's a Chevy cavalier and it gets around 23 miles to the gallon. I'm keeping it with the hope that by the time I have it paid off, Chevy and GM will have come to their senses and created a hybrid or alternative fuel version. But this recent news from Ford cast some doubt on that. I fear America is losing in the car industry.
Today, more and more foreign car makers are building factories in the US. And more and more Americans are buying these cars. Toyota is making the most money with its fleet of hybrid and fuel efficient autos. And with gas prices moving up and down randomly, it is no wonder. Americans are ready for a change in their gas consumption. I think the auto industry has the power to MAKE Americans stop using so much foreign oil. But American car makers have to step up to the plate. Of they don't, I fear they will go the way of other forgotten car makers.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Smoking Goes Up In Smoke

For many Americans, going out with friends and having a good time is a common form of entertainment. The great thing is that no matter what your interest, you are bound to find something to do with your friends. That is, unless you enjoy going to a bar, having some drinks, and smoking. The infamous "smoking ban" is spreading across this country like at a fever pitch. More and more towns are buying in to the pressure and banning smoking in public areas. The newest victim on that list is Oxford, Mississippi.
Last night, to the dismay of restaurant and bar owners, the city board passed the ordinance unanimously. The ban will "end smoking in all indoor spaces except residences and tobacco stores and outdoor areas as stadiums, arenas and amphitheaters." Along with this, establishments with outdoor areas must "reserve at least 50 percent of such areas for nonsmokers." Bars? What is this world coming to?
I'm not a smoker. I do know the negative affects of smoking. But I hate when government tries to micromanage people's lives with bogus laws like this. Restaurants have been divided into smoking and non-smoking sections for years. But bars have always been the last haven for smokers. Now, at least in the city of Oxford, that is going away for good. Why should these laws be passed? If you don't want to be around smoke, there are plenty of places to go and be away from it. Personally, it doesn't bother me all that much. I think this is completely ridiculous and may be a disaster for bars in Oxford.
The ban comes with some rather hefty fines too. Anyone violating the ordinance is "subject to a first-time fine of $50 and a $250 fine on subsequent offenses." Any business that wants to say, "The Hell with this law," will also be fined "$100 for the first violation, $200 for the second within a year and $500 for any subsequent violations within a year." If I was a successful business owner in Oxford and could afford it, I'd violate the hell out of this law. A little civil disobedience might just do the trick.
This may have a negative affect on the city of Oxford. The town is known for its bar scene and because of that, it is highly regulated. Those that oppose the ban say they are concerned with "potential business revenue losses, the rights of business owners to please their customers and the rights of smokers to choose to indulge their habit." And they are right. Why is it not up to the business owner? Why must the budgets and revenue of these owners be micromanaged and possibly driven to close their doors? I think there will be a sharp drop in the business to bars in Oxford. They will be hurt the most.
The question becomes, where will it end? Smoking is not illegal in this country. But many towns have taken the law into their own hands and made it illegal. If other towns follow this example, we may see a national prohibition on tobacco products that will lead the same thing a prohibition on alcohol did in the 1920s. If you are a business owner, stand up for your business and tell the city of Oxford to take their smoking ban and smoke it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More Warning Signs To Ignore

The signs of global warming are growing more numerous everyday. Scientists all around the world are finding more and more evidence that human activity is harming our world. So it comes as no surprise that a recent study found evidence that emissions from human activity are causing an increased melting in Antarctica.
In 2002, a chunk of ice the size of Rhode Island broke off from Antarctica and moved off into the ocean. The name of that ice shelf was Larsen B and its break has now been linked to global warming caused by human activity. According to a scientific study out this week, "Shifts in winds whipping around the southern ocean, tied to human emissions of greenhouse gases, had warmed the Antarctic peninsula jutting up toward South America and contributed to the break-up of the Larsen B ice shelf in 2002." Another warning sign ignored.
This warming is a result of a changed in meteorological patterns along the Antarctic Peninsula. For the past 40 years the mountains of the Antarctic peninsula have shielded it from warmer winds. But because of a climate change, summer-time temperatures on the peninsula have risen 9 degrees in the last 40 years. Average daytime temperatures on the peninsula in the summer are around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. That fact alone is unbelievable. How can you deny evidence like that?
While the rest of the continent is safe from severe warming at the moment, the trend is for that to change soon. According to one of the scientists on the study, Dr Chris Rapley, "yes, I think that's bound to be the case ... We've seen this southward migration as the wave of increased temperatures has penetrated further and further south." And if the main continent starts to heat up, a different kind of ice will start falling in the ocean.
In 2002, the world dodged a bullet. Because Larsen B was an ice shelf, it did not raise sea levels. It was already floating on the water. This is different from the ice that makes up the glaciers of the continent. If they begin to melt, sea levels will rise because this ice will sink in the ocean. According to the study, this is already beginning. Rapley said, "recent data had revealed for the first time that two major glaciers in eastern Antarctica were also starting to discharge ice into the sea." One warning sign after another. But our leaders will tell you that this is all junk science. There is nothing to worry about. And maybe in their own lifetime, they will be right. But our kids will pay for everything we have ignored and continue to ignore.

Monday, October 16, 2006

No Ticket

It's almost always a cop. And it almost always happens in a conservative state. Why do people feel that the First Amendment only applies to those that agree with the current government? And why do these same people feel it is a great crime to have a differing opinion? The answer is conservative ignorance that leads to blindly following anything conservative leaders say.
This time the offense to the Bill of Rights comes from Atlanta, Georgia. The victim was a 47 year-old nurse named Denise Grier. Her crime was having a bumper sticker that said, "I'm Tired Of All The BUSHIT." She was fined $100 by the DeKalb County police department for this bumper sticker. So she did what she should have done and went to court.
Luckily, the judge in DeKalb County was not as big an idiot as the police officer giving the ticket. He threw out the ticket because it was filed under the state's lewd decal law. This law was ruled unconstitutional in 1990. Apparently, the police officer doesn't care if laws are unconstitutional. If the bumper sticker offended him, then he must use his power to write a ticket.
Grier has taken the case to federal court because she wants protection. She stated that she is, "uncertain and insecure regarding her right to display her bumper sticker in DeKalb County." And good for her. I think it is a grand idea to stand up for her right to free speech. Political speech is often challenged when it is against the party in power. This has been especially true when conservatives have been in control. I'm tired of the rights for the "wrong" side being trampled on. Let this be a lesson to those that would do such a thing. If you don't agree with someone's opinion, get over it.

Friday, October 13, 2006

So Many People, So Little Time

According to the US Census Bureau, the population of the United States is about to hit 300 million. And this could happen any day now. With babies being born everyday and people living longer, it is no wonder that the United States population has reached this great level. But let's not celebrate this milestone just yet. Having the third largest population in the world is probably not something to be proud of, that is if you have an sense.
As compared to the rest of the world, the US is third behind China and India. The populations of both those countries already exceed one billion. And there is no sign of a slow down or halt to the exponential growth of the human population. People are living longer and keep the population at high levels. Even though we are the third largest population, our life expectancy rating is 29th at 77 years. That means in 28 other countries, people live longer than they do in the United States. We can chalk that up to better health care and diet.
But old people are the least of our worries. It's the younger ones in diapers that are really the problem. The United States is now 34th in the world for infant mortality. According to the Census Bureau, "For every 1,000 U.S. births, 7 babies die in their first year." Doing a little math, if 1,000 babies are born everyday and seven born each day die, then in a year the US population would increase by 362,445. And that doesn't include all the legal and illegal immigrants that enter the country each year.
The problem with this, is the ever increasing strain on the environment. I know that some will tell me to look out my window and see that the environment is still there. They will say that nothing negative has happened because of increased population. They will say that because they are ignorant. A gigantic increase in the population of ANY organism has an affect on the environment. People are the worst by far. We have to live in houses and houses need space and more houses means a city and cities take up more space and the viscous cycle continues. More and more land is cleared and covered over by roads and buildings. This lives nothing for other organisms and the environment suffers. Even the Census agrees saying, "The increasing U.S. population and resource use is adversely affecting multiple aspects of our environment. Evidence can be documented in terms of land use, water, forests, biodiversity, fisheries, agriculture, energy, solid and toxic waste."
What can be done? There is obviously no real solution to population growth aside from killing people off. We call that genocide and we ignore that in the US so go right ahead. If our way of life doesn't change at a population, we will not only be living on a very crowed planet, but a dying one as well. The world's population is estimated to reach 9 billion in the next 44 years. Can the Earth really support this? I'll be 69 and hopefully still alive to find out.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A United Cause For The United States

Yet again, I have come across an editorial by Lou Dobbs that I could not agree with more. I see Dobbs now was an old Republican that has lost his faith in the party and turned Independent. I think this because his latest article, "Middle class needs to fight back now," speaks to that point. Sorry Lou, but I beat you to this idea months ago. But you get all the credit and that is probably for the best.
Dobbs begins his article with a statement that I have said many times in the past. He states, "I can't take seriously anyone who takes either the Republican Party or Democratic Party seriously -- in part because neither party takes you and me seriously; in part because both are bought and paid for by corporate America and special interests." And if that was obvious, I don't know what is. The increasing corruption of American politics in evident in the ineffectiveness shown by Congress in the last six years and beyond. I don't see how anyone could still call themselves a member of either party. Both are so corrupt, they no longer focus on the issues but on one-upping each other in the press. That is not the way government should work and Dobbs agrees.
Dobbs explains what has caused the two major parties in America to become so ineffective. He cites a recent study done by the Center for Public Integrity. During the study, the group found, "in 1968 there were only 63 lobbyists in Washington. Today, there are more than 34,000, and lobbyists now outnumber our elected representatives and their staffs by a 2-to-1 margin." That is completely pathetic. Special interests have been an increasing problem in Washington since I can remember. They run the government. Dobbs cites evidence that whoever can throw around the most money in Washington can "not only influence legislation, but in many cases to write the language of the laws and regulations." This is a blatant disregard of EVERYTHING this country was founded on. Do the people running this country remember what democracy is? I don't think so.
So what is the plan of action for Americans? What can we really do that can help fix this problem? I agree with Dobbs' idea. In fact, it is almost identical to my own idea and would be just as effective. According to Dobbs, "we don't have to wait for the midterm elections to begin to engage in our new political life." While not voting for incumbents would have a lasting effect on Congress, Dobbs suggests that voters take it one step further. He says every American that cares should, "walk into our town and city halls all over the country and change our party affiliation from Republican or Democrat to independent." What an impact this would have. If both parties were dealt such a blow right before an election, the face of American politics would change forever. And I would be proud to see it happen.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Separation of Church and State Lives In Michigan

It may not be in the Constitution, but the often popular and always controversial statement by Thomas Jefferson that there should be "a separation between Church and State" is a very good idea. The problem is that too often lawmakers overlook this good idea in favor of pushing their own religious and political agendas on the American people. This has been most evident in the fight in many states to keep evolution in science classes and keep "intelligent design" out.
Recently, Michigan has been the site of a battle over what should be taught in a science classroom. Conservative Christians that do not know or care to know anything about science have been trying to remove evolution from schools for years. The reason it has stayed, is because someone making the decisions has sense. For example, the members of the Michigan State Board of Education. This week, they "approved public school curriculum guidelines that support the teaching of evolution in science classes -- but not intelligent design." This is a great thing because evolution is science and it is expected that those learning science learn about evolution.
For too long, it has been seen as an affront to God to teach evolution in schools. This is a ridiculous idea spread by lawmakers that want nothing more than to turn the United States into a theocracy ruled by crazy conservative Christians. This is obvious because they are the only ones complaining about the teaching of evolution.
The State of Michigan has made a great step in approving a science curriculum that requires teaching evolution. It needs to be taught because it is tested science theory. Intelligent design is not science. It is a belief that "living organisms are so complex they must have been created by a higher force rather than evolving from more primitive forms." And while this makes for great discussion in a religion class, it has not place in a science class.
Although conservative Christians would say otherwise, the teaching of evolution has nothing to do with trying to remove God from the minds of children. The purpose is to "make students more knowledgeable about science." That cannot happen if evolution is removed from curriculums around the country. This boils down to ignorant people trying to make decisions for the rest of us. The cases around the country dealing with evolution prove again and again that lawmakers are to stupid to make the rules for education. They don't want the opinions of educators and they don't want to be educated themselves. At least Michigan has the right idea about all of this.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bush Offers No Solution To School Violence

In the last ten years, school violence has become an increasing problem in more and more areas. By that, I mean more white people have been victims of school violence recently. But that statistic aside, what can be done to curve school violence? A better question is how do you make school safer? This week, the Bush Administration held a conference to get people to come up with ideas to do just that. It wasn't very productive. And one of the reasons is stereotypes.
Since 1997, parents, law makers, and law enforcement have been trying to come up with a profile for a school shooter. They won't tell you they have, but it is a fact. Ask school officials if they have a checklist to identify "at risk" students and they will usually tell you "yes." The problem with these profiles is that they are vague and inaccurate. Just looking at one could label a lot of kids "at risk." Many school then over react and impose strict rules that only alienate the students more. An increase strictness in dress code to include body piercings or music group T-shirts is going a bit too far. But it looks good in front of the parents and school districts like that.
Even though these profiles don't work, they were brought up today in Bush's conference. One expert said an important part of making schools safer is, "really having good intelligence." It makes it sound like we are fighting a war against our kids. We aren't and it shouldn't be treated as such. Another guest said better communication is the key. This I do agree with. But a real plan of action for a school should start at home.
All school should have a crisis management plan and includes police officers as security. I think we can deal with having cops at the schools. It won't be a problem if we use their services correctly. Second, schools must stop profiling students but at the same time practice zero-tolerance for bad behavior. Instead of focusing on what a student looks like or who his friends are, schools should focus on actual behavior. By ridding the school of bad behavior with zero-tolerance, the school will be safer.
There is no simple solution to this. Using a conference on school shootings as a campaign stop is simply inexcusable. The fact that Bush really thinks one conference is enough speakes volumes about what he really thinks of domestic issues. Bush doesn't care about education. He proves that on days like today. Local government and parents need to take the initiative on this one. Let's not wait for the federal government to solve this one. They can't and they won't.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Dr. Strange-Kim or Why North Korea Loves the Nuclear Bomb

The wait can be compared to the wait for a summer blockbuster at the movies. Since North Korea was added to the Axis of Evil in 2002, we have been waiting for them to prove they have a nuclear bomb. That wait is now over. The question now becomes, so what? They have nuclear bombs. What are we going to do about it? North Korea now has the biggest bargaining chip a world player could ask for. The leadership of the country is eating it up.
From the top down in the government today, we have heard reaction after reaction. From Bush, came the statement, "North Korea's claim that it has tested a nuclear weapon is a threat to international peace and the world will respond." That statement does not seem like one that would be may by the "go-get-them" president. He is saying the "world" will respond. He is not speaking for just the United States. This tells me that our government is afraid to the point of inaction. We will definitely not do this one alone, if we do anything at all.
What North Korea has now is the biggest bargaining chip any world power could ask for. It has put itself into an elite group of nations that have the power to build nuclear bombs. That means if another nation wants North Korea to do something with the nukes, that nation must agree to North Koreas terms. In other words, they have a gun in every negotiation from now on. We no longer have the upper hand.
The UN is going to sit by and do nothing. To often sanctions are seen as a way to "make" a country fall in line with the UN. It has been shown that this will not work with North Korea. Their leadership does not care about the people of the country and sanctions will only hurt the poor in North Korea. The military and leadership will be untouched. Therefore, there must be some other solution presented. What that is has not yet been determined. But the leaders of North Korea have suddenly become very powerful and I fear they may use that power.
Of course the real fear of our government is that they will sell the bomb to terrorist. And while that is a real possibility, I do not stay up at night thinking about it. If they are going to sell the technology, I don't think we can stop them. But if we focus more on security at home, then we can stop the use of the bomb. If we can get our government to look inward instead of outward, we will be safer. North Korea is a real threat. Iraq is not. But it is too late to change that opinion now. What needs to be done is to get some leaders that will focus on safety for Americans at home and stop policing nations that want us out.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Renewing N.C.L.B. Leaves America Behind

After a rash of school violence this past week, the President thought it would be a great opportunity to push his non-functional political agenda in education. At a charter school in Washington state on Thursday, Bush spoke about renewing No Child Left Behind and the importance of the law. In the speech, he acknowledged that the law isn't working as well for parents as it should. What he should have said is that the law isn't working for anyone. Especially the people charged with carrying it out, the teachers.
Bush focused on two aspects of the law that have not been strongly enforced since the law was passed in 2001. For example, if a school "falls short" on yearly progress for two straight years, the school is required "to offer transfers to students." Also, if a school does not meet these goals for three straight years, the school "must offer low-income parents a choice of tutors." These two things seem to be a bit much. First off, just exactly where do they think these students are going to transfer too. This aspect of the law also assumes that it is the teachers and not the students that have the problem meeting goals.
My major problem with NCLB has always been its lack of student responsibility and accountability. It is not even there. Parts of the law such as these are proof of that. This law is destroying public education. It is demonizing teachers and it is leaving the profession searching for future recruits. And because of this law, they are few and far between.
Another thing Bush wants to do in the area of education is "pay for 28,000 low income students across the country to transfer to private schools." Why? What good does this do for education in this country? Who gets to pick the 28,000 students? What will the make-up of this group be? See questions like these are never answered. Too many times politics and education cross paths with disastrous results. Politician, like Bush, will say things that sound great. But these idealistic statements have no plan of action attached to them. Without that, they are little more than empty words. No Child Left Behind is nothing more than a politicians idea of a campaign slogan. It has nothing to do with helping students and everything to do with getting votes. If Congress has any sense, they will not renew this law and let it die.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Dream to Beam

I can thank my mother for my love of Star Trek. Since I was very young, I can remember watching the adventures of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. Then later in my childhood, I was introduced to characters like Picard and Data. My love for the show and its view of the future has not changed. It really is set in an idealistic world. One can only hope that humanity achieves half of the things that appear in the storylines of the show.
One thing about the show that I love, especially on The Next Generation, was the amazing technology of this future world. The one everybody can think up almost immediately is "beaming" or teleportation. In the show, almost anything can be teleported (or beamed) to any location within a range. And for the longest time, scientists have said it is impossible. But not anymore.
Before anyone's hopes are raised too high, the recent achievements of Professor Eugene Polzik and Ignacio Cirac are a far cry from anything witnessed in Star Trek. But these two scientists have achieved something that was once thought impossible. This week, Polzik and Cirac have "teleported information from light to matter bringing quantum communication and computing closer to reality."
Of course to some, this may seem like a bunch of science jargon, but this is a real achievement. Until now, scientists had only been able to teleport "two single atoms...a distance of a fraction of a millimeter." In Polzik and Cirac's experiment, they were able to teleport "information a distance of half a meter but believes it can be extended further."
The real life application of this technology has nothing to do with teleporting people to spaceships or supplies to a colony. This type of teleportation is about the movement of information. According to Polzik, their "method allows teleportation to be taken over longer distances because it involves light as the carrier of entanglement." In the future, Polzik envisions information being sent, not through wires, but through teleportation. And the great thing about this, besides light-speed access to information, is "much higher information capacity and it cannot be eavesdropped on." That's right, your information cannot be stolen if it is teleported.
So the future is looking brighter in the area of communication. This is good for Americans who are tired of worrying about identity theft and some wacko politician wanting to eavesdrop on American citizens. In the future, you won't send that email, you'll beam it up.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sheltering Kids From The News Makes Them Stupid

As mentioned yesterday, acts of violence like school shootings occur in cycles. Just when the thought of the last ones is beginning to pass from your mind, another one happens. I think it is God's or Fate's or whatever's way of reminding us that we are not in control. And the worst thing we can do in these situations is ignore the fact that kids need to know what is going on.
The last time I read an article about how to deal with talking to your kids about tragedy was right after 9-11. There were actually people who thought it was a good idea to NOT let kids see the images of that day. They thought it was a good idea to keep kids in the dark about these events. And by doing so, they screwed up the development of these kids by making them ignorant of the world around them.
The recent school shootings in the past five days have started a resurgence in people wondering how to talk to their kids about the situations. It is normal for a parent to wonder how their child will react to an incident like the Amish school shooting. But what should not be normal is pretending nothing is wrong and not let kids have access to the news. Kids need to know what is going on in the world just as much as they need to be told that they are going to be alright.
That brings up the point of going to far with exposing your kids to news. Obviously, there are some things in the news that kids will be disturbed by. There will also be things that scare them because they do not understand. It is a parent's job to explain something to their child when they don't understand that. If you don't, you are no better than the fear-mongering media outlets that put out the stories. But just because you are unsure about how to explain something, doesn't mean you shouldn't try.
Parents that turn off the news or shelter their kids from bad news are bad parents. They are, in fact, making their kids stupid. If a child goes his/hers whole life not really experiencing anything, that child will be lost on their own. Think about it. If a child is not allowed to know fear or sadness, what sort of adult will they become. One that will probably not last long in the "real world."
Make a habit of watching the news with your kids everyday. I know that usually local news is on three times a night. One of these times is perfect to spend with your child. By doing this, you child will not only be more informed about current events, he/she will also know how to cope with the tragedies that may come along. It is the job of a parent to send their child out into the world prepared to face it. If they don't get their explanations from their parents, where do you think they will get them? That question alone should scare anyone into leaving the news on for their kids to watch.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Amish Paradise Lost

Just days ago, I was commenting on the resurgence of my memories of the Darkest Day. That day, October 1st 1997, will be forever burned into my memory. And now it seems we are entering a new cycle of violence in schools. Because it is a cycle. And the threat is no longer limited to students at the school.
The latest incident occurred in an area where "no one thought this could happen." It involved a person "no one thought was capable" of such a vile act. But it happened just the same. These are the words most often heard after a school shooting. No one ever expects it to happen and no one ever believes the person committing the crime could do it.
I have always admired the Amish. They try so very hard to separate themselves from the outside world and to protect their families and relatives from its harmful influence. They practice non-violence and non-conformation to society. Yet by doing so, they made themselves an easy target. Because of their strict policies, the Amish have no police department or emergency services. Of course it wasn't thought they were needed. No one ever thinks these types of things will happen. But now that it has, the Amish community will have to cope.
The question becomes what sort of a man could rip the innocence away from such a peaceful group of people? The answer, in most cases, is someone nobody expected. We know from his family that Charles Carl Roberts IV was a loving father and a very good husband. His wife commented that "he was everything a woman could ask for." But it is clear now that this man held a dark secret that consumed him. In a phone call to his wife before the shooting, Roberts admitted that 20 years ago "he had molested two female relatives who were between the ages of 3 and 5 at the time." And since then, he has been haunted by dreams of the abuse. It can be assumed that the dreams consumed his being and lead him to murder.
Regardless of the causes, the Amish community has been robbed of its innocence and some of its most precious possessions. Five girls lost their lives because of this incident. They will never come home. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Naomi Rose Ebersole, 7; Anna Mae Stoltzfus, 12; Marian Fisher, 13; Mary Liz Miller, 8, and her sister, Lena Miller, 7. They lost their lives in a place they thought was a safe paradise on earth.

Monday, October 02, 2006

American Nobels Give Future Hope

I can't imagine what it must feel like to win a Nobel Prize for anything. Over the years, many Americans from John Nash to William Faulkner have taken home the prize in any number of categories. And the reaction is always different. But beyond the reaction, is the hope for the future that some Nobel winners may offer. Among them are the two winners in medicine this year from the United States.
I'm pretty sure that when Andrew Fire and Craig Mello were freshmen in college, they maybe only dreamed of one day doing something to win a Nobel Prize. The two winners are responsible for the discovery of "RNA interference," which is defined to be, "a powerful way to turn off the effect of specific genes, opening a new avenue for disease treatment." This process works to interrupt the mechanisms in cells that produce protein. Protein is one of the most essential substances in cells. The function of DNA is to send messages out to produce certain proteins. The problem is that not every gene on the DNA produces a helpful protein. In people that have certain diseases, their genetics is part of the problem. Fire and Mello discovered that sometimes, "certain molecules trigger the destruction of RNA from a particular gene, so that no protein is produced. Thus the gene is effectively silenced." The applications of this procedure are many.
By interrupting the production of proteins from "bad genes" this process could help cure certain diseases. At the moment, the process is widely used in the study for treating "AIDS and hepatitis viruses and for other conditions, including heart disease and cancer." That, to me, is an amazing feat. It opens the door to many more possibilities in the future. Both Fire and Mello are very deserving of this award. But as honored as they were, the two could not help being humble. Fire was noted as saying about receiving the award, "Science is a group effort. Please recognize that the recent progress in the field of RNA-based gene silencing has involved original scientific inquiry from research groups around the world." With scientists like this on the job, how can we not have just a little hope in the future.