School Shootings in America: A Too Familiar Occurance

With last weeks school shooting in Washington state it brings up a too familiar feeling that America is falling apart at the seams; if we can’t keep 14 year olds safe in school, how can we possibly keep civilians safe on the streets? It’s extremely sad that I have to write, “it was not that bad of a shooting, only three kids were killed,” but in modern day America it is exactly what we hear too often. Is there a reason behind our school shootings? Is there a reason why, although it does occur in other countries, it is an epidemic here? Lastly, and most importantly, how many more children must die before we do something about it?

In 2012, USA Today reported that Europe experiences far fewer school shootings than the US; USA Today linked this to our individualistic nature (Dorell, p.1) . While individualism makes sense on other levels, I am hesitant to equate school shootings to our individualism. Does America have a “gun culture?” Sure, but I think we are simply desensitized to guns rather than reliant on them. I think this is the cause of our huge lead in gun violence in schools but also gun violence as a whole. We are simply indifferent to guns until 1. There’s a mass shooting or 2. Some politician mentions “gun control.”

Although America has huge rates of gun ownership we also have astronomical rates of gun violence. According to NBC News, every year more than 100,000 people are shot and between 2000-2010 335,609 people were died from guns. (NBC News) These are huge numbers! Honestly, I don’t know which is scarier the numbers or the fact that we have done nothing to stop it. I’m 2010, more children under five were killed than police officers in the line of duty. (NBC News) Why is gun violence so high here in the US? Switzerland has 45 guns per 100 residents compared to 89 per 100 in the US yet gun violence in Switzerland is almost unheard of. (Dorell, p.1) In Israel, many people openly carry guns in the streets and again, non-political gun violence is very rare. (Dorell, p.1) Is it our violent video game culture? Our violent TV culture? Our celebrity culture? I cannot begin to answer that but I do know one thing……something must be done to curb the violence.

Americans are quick to quote the Constitution or refer to Chicago when gun control is mentioned but control doesn’t mean gun prohibition; we can have control without prohibiting gun ownership. We could 1. Require background checks on any gun purchase. This would include rifles and shotguns as well as handguns and private sales. 2. Ban assault rifles. There is simply no good reason to allow assault rifles or automatic weapons in America. 3. Limit magazines to 10 rounds. 4. Require serial number stamping on expended rounds. and 5. Implement mandatory sentencing for gun violations. These may be small steps but at least they are steps in the right direction. We simply cannot continue down the same path we are on.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

Dorell, Oren. 18 December 2012. In Europe, Fewer Mass Killings Due to Culture Not Guns. USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2012/12/17/guns-mass-killings-worldwide/1776191/

NBC News. U.S. News. 16 January 2013. Just the Facts: Gun Violence in America. http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/01/16/16547690-just-the-facts-gun-violence-in-america?lite

Gun Right’s VS Gun Control: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Here in the United States we have the right to bear arms given to us by our constitution. This right allows us to protect ourselves against those who wish to do us harm but also means there are a lot of weapons in this country. In America, mass shootings are so common they rarely spend anytime on the news; giving way to what Kim Kardashian ate for breakfast or Justin Beiber’s latest idiotic brush with the law. American’s love their guns, and rightfully so, but with so many mass shootings, so many dead kids and slain loved ones something will have to be done, and soon.

Ban guns: This is the most common idea and the dividing point between many American’s. This is such a simple answer that it cannot possibly be the correct one. Criminals do not follow the law, if the did they wouldn’t be called criminals. Criminals will get guns if their heart is set on it; cocaine, crack, meth, heroine etc are all illegal yet they still flood are streets and corrupt our youth, so how would making guns illegal possibly have a different result than making certain drugs illegal?

Require background checks for potential gun buyers: This is the idea that I can stand behind. There is absolutely no reason why this can’t be implemented. If you want to own a gun, for the right reasons, you probably have nothing to hide. Granted, criminals will still be able to purchase guns elsewhere but at least we will be attempting to make an effort to curb the mass shootings, and some of the violence. The common complaint here is that the government will know who has guns and who doesn’t. I will be the first to say that if the government wanted to take back our guns, they could. A lot of people say, “Over my dead body!” But only a fraction really mean it and they can easily be dealt with by our emergency services and military. I am a lifetime concealed carry permit holder from Indiana so yes, I believe in gun rights and the right to bear arms I am just being realistic.

Implement open carry throughout the country: This would probably be the best route to curbing the crime. Can you imagine if even 60% of the teachers in these schools were packing or the movie goers or the co-workers? Those shooting sprees would’ve lasted seconds not minutes yet everyone thinks more guns spell trouble. Here’s on example from US News and Opinion, “In 1982, Atlanta suburb Kennesaw required all households to have a gun. The residential burglary rate subsequently dropped 89 percent in Kennesaw, compared to the modest 10.4 percent drop in Georgia as a whole.” I believe these results would echo throughout the country if open carry was allowed and encouraged. Cities with high incidents of home burglaries would see an immediate drop in crime. American’s don’t want to be victims and the best approach for that to happen is gun ownership. Yes, we can call the cops and 10-15 minutes later they’ll arrive.

People that are anti-gun are sure quick to call people with guns (police) when they think they’re danger! Guns are a fundamental part of American culture and God willing will be for the foreseeable future.

 

 

Image courtesy of: thearkansasproject.com

Unequal Opportunity for an Unequal Society?

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We live in a very diverse society, I don’t think anyone could argue that but can we truly say that it’s equal? Although we have many different cultures here in the US we continue to many of them differently than others. We have programs like Affirmative Action that encourages companies and schools to hire/enroll people based solely upon their skin color instead of their skills in that particular field, or their ability in the classroom. We give scholarships and grants to those based on their cultural background instead of their scholastic ability. Is there a wonder why we rank so far behind the rest of the world in the classroom? Is there any wonder why there is such discontent in the workplace?

The most popular story in the news today is Michigan and the University of Michigan banning race-based enrollment. They used to give an extra 20 points based solely on race alone. How is this fair? What in the world does skin color have to do with intelligence? Michigan has since banned the activity and now people are up in arms because the enrollment of minorities is down. Well I have one very simple question; how many people, that fit the bill scholastically, but were turned away for people that didn’t but were pushed over the edge because of the extra 20 points? How is this fair? More importantly, how is this equal opportunity?

In 2009, a New Haven, CT fire department was sued by 17 white members and one hispanic member for it’s hiring and promotion practices; the case came to be called Ricci v. DeStefano. Basically, to get promoted you have to take a test, if you don’t pass then you don’t get promoted, if you do then you can be promoted. Well, because no black firefighter passed the test, the department invalidated the test and promoted black fire fighters anyway. So, how in the world does your skin color make you a better fire fighter? How does it make you a better leader?

We allow minorities to form groups in the workplace and in the education institution based around race alone, yet will not allow the same thing for white people or white men. We have women’s groups, groups for black people, Hispanics etc but none for white people or white men alone. I have lobbied my college, numerous times, even the Dean himself, to allow me to start a White Student Union. I am not trying to cause waves, okay maybe I am, but I think it’s very unfair to have a Black Student Union but not a White one. We allow a National Black Police Association but there would be outrage if a bunch of White police officers got together and formed a group. How is this fair? How is this equal?

I am a firm believer that we are all the same. Poor white kids have the same opportunity than poor black kids they are just usually in different areas. I think we should all be held to the same standards and given the same opportunities. No one should be discriminated against and no one should be given special treatment. Wouldn’t this truly make for equal opportunity? Wouldn’t this truly make for an equal society

Image courtesy of: kziah.wordpress.com

Social Media: A Blessing or a Curse?

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Are you old enough to remember a world without computers; well personal computers? I am only 26 yet I remember my family getting our first PC. I grew up with 2 brothers, and we were all the same age, so needless to say the computer didn’t last long and my father never bought us another. I continued my life without a computer up until I was 18, the year was 2006. I had joined the Marine Corps and bought a laptop with my first paycheck. Man, I was in heaven! I couldn’t believe all the stuff this thing could do; I mean, I took the computer classes in school but it didn’t prepare me for my own PC. I began writing, saving videos and photos, searching the web like a crazy person and watching movies. It seemed this thing had took over my life, in a good way. I am sure I am not the only person out there that remembers all of this stuff but I do think my generation will be the last!

In 2007, Apple came out with the iPhone and it seemed the tech world exploded. I remember my first smartphone. The T-Mobile MyTouch. Looking back on this thing I can’t believe how small it was; not that size matters. In 2003, MySpace came online and in 2004 Facebook came alive. In 2010, Instagram came online and now, now we have a plethora of social networking applications. With smartphones outselling computers and essentially in the hands of everyone over, like 5 social networking has officially become a part of life; a part that some people cannot do without.

I swore off Facebook years ago and have only operated a Instagram account until my LinkedIn and now, of course, WordPress. I like the idea of social networking and what it can bring you but there are also ills. The constant drama, the arguments, the posting stuff you should never post etc I think I would rather do without; and frankly I think it has been empowering. Being able to live without something that a lot of people cannot go an hour without checking, obsessively, is a good thing and I encourage you all to try it. I encourage everyone to get out there and mingle with your friends and do stuff outside of the coded world! It’ll make you feel better as well as more fulfilled. Social Media should be used to connect with those that you cannot connect with daily i.e. friends that live in another city, military overseas or those in college away from home etc. It should not, and never, be used for you to “make a point” or port your feelings; I promise, you’ll look back and see how stupid it was.

Technology is such a great thing, really. It’s a damn shame we have to use it to talk about our break-up, our new tattoo, our dinner or whatever other meaningless things people use technology for. Kudos to those out there inventing new technology, new uses for current technology and even those developing ways to get away from harmful technology. I think we should set a side a day to celebrate technology and where it has brought us! I don’t people realize just how far we’ve come thanks to the internet/computer. Imagine, for a second, where we would be without those two things. You couldn’t use your GPS when you’re lost, couldn’t take those pictures to post on Instagram, couldn’t even email home if you were stationed overseas; the list really goes on and on. We are a new culture because of technology and therefore it is something to be celebrated and appreciated. That being said, it should also be something to fear and use wisely.

Photo courtesy of: fredcavazza.net

Global Inequality: Why Is There Such A Large Gap?

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Plato said, “The form of law which I propose would be as follows: In a state which is desirous of being saved from the greatest of all plaques-not faction, but rather distraction-there should exist among the citizens neither extreme poverty nor, again, excessive wealth, for both are productive of great evil….Now the legislator should determine what is to be the limit of poverty or of wealth.” (inequality.org)

Poverty, world poverty, is something I hold very dear to me. It doesn’t make sense that the Western world can be so wealthy yet allow most of the rest of the world to be so poor. Some countries, like Brazil and China, have the ability to bring their people out of extreme poverty but others don’t. For example, the average pay in China is about $1.36 an hour (CNBC) China has the ability to enforce minimum pay legislation, they just don’t. I was watching a documentary the other day about Chad, in Africa; a majority of the people they were talking to had mentioned that if they could just get a bicycle then they could so much more work done, even bring their family into the middle-class. Well, why couldn’t the US get with the EU and China and send a million bicycles to Africa; to be given out by the UN for free? Many nations have oil rigs or mineral mines in Africa yet provide the area with no subsistence…this should be a mandate enacted by those countries. That if you do business in that country a percentage of your business is siphoned off to be spent on local infrastructure. We should work with the African Union to establish an organization designed solely to push education reforms within Africa and of course utilize UN troops to stand guard at those schools.

China also has extreme poverty but I think this is America’s fault. We need to pass legislation that requires overseas factories of products sold in America to be held to the safe OSHA standards as factories in America. If we do this we could drastically cut back on suicides, death from exhaustion and workers being over worked. We could also cut back on pollution, which eventually reaches our shores anyway. The products may cost a little more but, I think, it would be worth it.

India is kind of in the same boat as China just a little less developed. One of the major concerns here is the pollution and human waste being dumped into rivers. WE should start a dialogue with India and send over our water treatment specialists to assist India in building new centers, but we can’t do it alone. We need to include the EU, Brazil, Canada, Australia and South Africa. This would not only lessen the burden on the US but also help build relations that may prove beneficial in the future. The legislation that we passed to deal with factories in China would hold true to businesses in India but doing more than 50% of their business in America.

Mexico is a whole other animal. This country is on the border of the United States, the world most powerful economy and only superpower, yet beheadings occur daily. Does that make any sense? We need a meaningful dialogue with Mexico. We need to use our intelligence assets to pinpoint where drugs are made, who is leading the cartel and how they are transported. Then, working with Mexico, we need to raid every one of these places at the same time. Once these manufacturing locations are raided we need to work with Mexico in securing its borders; while continuing to try to open the border up for more trade with the US. Then, like in India, work with other developed powers and repair their basic infrastructure while encouraging business to relocate to Mexico. Again, this would not only lower the crime at the border towns but also decrease drugs coming into the US, increase travel to Mexico, build a friendship that could, one day, be very useful and decrease the amount of pollution coming into the US.

There are many ways to attack global inequality but we have to start now and it CANNOT only be the US, it needs to be a consortium of powers that all have the same vested interest. We cannot go in and impose democracy, especially when we don’t practice it ourselves, and we cannot go in trying to change other things about the country. If we say that we are there for education then we must only deal with education; America’s inability to do this is why China has such a foothold in Africa.

 

Photo courtesy of: pavelpodolyak.blogspot.co.uk

World Pollution: When Will We Get a Handle On It?

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The above picture is of Brazilian waters courtesy of: Yahoo! New

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The above picture is of Indonesian waters courtesy of: flickrhivemind.net

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The above picture is of a Mumbai beach courtesy of: knowledge.allianz.com

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The above picture is of the Citarum River in Indonesia courtesy of: turnbacktogod.com

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The above picture is of the air in Shanghai, China courtesy of: thestar.com

Since the Industrial Revolution we have been continuously adding pollution to our air, seas and land. The United States is at the forefront of this catastrophe due to her insatiable desire for goods. The world, the developed world, is moving into the middle class faster then we ever could have imagined and with that comes consumerism. As people continue to make more money they will desire more and more “things” to make their lives easier, and who can blame them? We cannot, as Americans, tell the developing world that they have to slow down, not use as much, protect the environment etc when all they have to do is look at us and see just how much we use. We, the United States, will have to set an example for others to follow and although we have started protecting the environment we have a long way to go.

Ever since trade was opened up to the world, American corporations have searched high and low for people to make their goods at a lower and lower price so that those same corporations can make higher and higher profits, without giving any back to the worker. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average hourly wage of a Chinese worker is $1.36 while their average workday is 12 hours and their chance of having a workplace fatality is 0..96% compared the US at .0027% and Germany at .00187%. You would think, looking at these numbers that the cost of goods should be much lower than they are, right? According to CNBC, the cost to build an iPhone is just $199 but it is sold in the US for as much as $849. That’s a mark-up of $650 per iPhone. Why do they sale for so much? Well for two reasons. 1. Americans will pay it and 2. To increase profits and therefore please share-holders. According to Sky News, more than half of the 170,000 employees at FoxConn exceeded China’s max overtime limit of 36 hours as well as high numbers of suicides and industrial unrest.

What is the price we are willing to pay for cheap products? One of the biggest concerns, in my opinion, is the apparent US government desire to keep workers underpaid and therefore in poverty in these areas. The US government condones this activity, albeit by their silence. They could pass legislation that says in order for a company to sell their products in the US, the factories in which those products were made will be held to the same standard as US factories, to include proportionate pay. There are steps we could take, as a government to significantly reduce world-wide pollution, we just simply choose not to.

American corporations, though indirectly many times, pollute to area in which their products are made by taking advantage of the loose restrictions on environmental protection. In America there are rules to say that companies cannot dump many chemicals directly into the water, meaning they must make those chemicals safe first; others rules may say that companies must “clean” their emissions. These rules cost that company money and therefore encourage those companies to move overseas where those rules may not exist. According to Greenpeace, big name brands to include Adidas, PUMA and Nike all relay on companies in China that knowingly pollute the waterways, and PUMA/Adidas said that they would not stop doing business with those companies after learning this.

Again, according to Greenpeace, “In China alone there are 435 discharge points like the one serving Wubao, spanning the coast and releasing 32.2 billion tons of waste water into the sea each year. In 2012, a staggering 68% of them had records for illegal discharge while 25% had never met national environmental standards…” According to Explorando Mexico, “Water pollution is due to the discharge of domestic, industrial, agricultural and mining residues. Ninety million Mexicans, despite having the infrastructure to receive drinkable water, need to filter their water…” According to livemint.com and the Wall Street Journal, more than half of the 445 rivers in India cannot even be used for bathing. I will say that not all of this pollution is from American corporations but a lot is and worse than that, other countries tend to follow America so by seeing American corporations coming in and dumping waste, emitting poison etc they may think that it’s okay and therefore do it themselves.

We know how to reduce pollution. The United States Environmental Protection Agency gives us some pointers. Conserve energy, recycle, plant trees to give your home shade, buy green electricity, use solar power for outside lights and keep your house a little warmer during warm months and a little cooler in the cool months. You may ask yourself the same thing I am asking myself. If the US EPA knows how to reduce pollution then how come they do not force companies that sell products in America to reduce theirs? I know why, and I’ll let you in on it. Money! These companies give huge amounts of money to US politicians who then turn around and fight against more import taxes, tighter regulation or pollution clean-up as well as decent pay for employees and better conditions for foreign employees. Money truly is the root of all evil.

How can we fix this? First, and most importantly we must cap political donations. If a company is allowed to spend $10 million on a presidential candidate then it is no secret that if that candidate wins he will be in that company’s pockets. Second, we must ensure that employee pay, in America, keeps pace with inflation. If we continue to have pay stagnation then we are not allowing ourselves to spend more, tax more or buy more. Third, we have pass legislation that hold companies liable for their workers conditions and pay, if they sell product in America. Fourth, we must join an International organization, or found one, that encourages pollution clean-up; even awarding countries that make significant advances with aid or contracts.

Whether you believe it or not world-wide pollution is everyone’s problem. The water that is polluted makes it’s way around the world, potentially touching every country. The air that is polluted will blow around the world and the disease that may accompany pollution is passed around the world. We must all do our part and encourage others to do there’s.

 

Institutionalized Racism

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Institutionalized racism is basically just racism but perpetrated by an institution.  Essentially, excluding specific individuals access, rights, employment, membership etc based on race. The institutions I will discuss, or refer to, are those that are all black and discriminate against white people; the NAACP, the Association of Black Psychologists, the National Association of Black Accountants, the National Association of Black Journalists, the National Black Business Council and NBCC, the United Negro College Fund and the National Black Police Association. All of these institutions are designed to benefit primarily, if not only, blacks. I found this hard to believe, being that we are in the year 2014, yet we still have organizations built around race and designed to benefit those in regards to race alone.

Three things we can do to eliminate institutionalized racism is to 1. Ban any and all organizations built around race. We should have done this in the courts already: http://lawguides.scu.edu/content.php?pid=119398&sid=1028498 2. Get rid of affirmative action therefore allowing schools or business to enroll based off skill and not for whatever race allows them to gain a tax cut. http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21576662-governments-should-be-colour-blind-time-scrap-affirmative-action 3. Ban any and all questions on enrollment, scholarships or employment forms that have to do with race. I believe these will go a long way in reducing the amount of benefits given to those based solely upon race alone.

A study has been done by Tuft and Harvard University and the findings show that white people increasingly feel that they are the primary victims of racism. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/study-whites-say-they-are-racism-victims/ I believe a lot of this has to do with the hundreds of organizations built to benefit minorities, but the absolute disdain of any designed to benefit white people. Could you imagine if there was an Organization of White Police Officers or a United White College Fund? They would be taken to the Supreme Court. Even institutions of higher learning have a Black Student Unions but won’t even return my numerous calls and emails inquiring how to start a White Student Union, not to be racist but to be fair; wouldn’t that be crazy? For an educational institution to be fair to all races and sexes and not just benefit a few? Affirmative Action, extra points on enrollment, race centered organizations supported by the institution, specific grants or scholarships based on race alone, specific recruitment techniques, lower acceptable SAT scores etc

Photo courtesy of: http://www.memecenter.com