Monday, September 25, 2006

Before You read this Next Post

I was just reading back to the beginning of my blog, and I'll admit it, I lied. I said that I would try to be unbiased, but when you've got a soap box like the internet, I'll take the opportunity and announce to the world my opinions. I still maintain that though I will largely be posting my opinions about world events(wars), leaders(bush), and how I think the world should respond to these (impeach bush), I'm still focusing on what I view could be the beginning of a decline in civilization.

I don't mean to sound extreme, but in this day and age, it seems that's the only way to get things across. I will frequently make references to World War III, and all that is is merely speaking about any future military conflict, which may or may not become a world war. I will also freqeuntly Bush(wack) the president. (I'm sorry, I couldn't resist the pun.)

Saturday, September 23, 2006

War, What is it Good For? Part II

As I've mentioned before, all you have to do is turn on the TV any given day and you'll get flooded with reports of wars happening far away from home. You may be asking yourself, why are these wars happening, and what can be done about them? As can be read in the first installment of this series, wars oftentimes have their roots deeply seated in past events that have occured between the countries or people involved, many times going back thousands of years. But what about more modern wars?

Think about it this way; think of the countries of the world that are wrought with poverty; the countries that can't produce enough food to feed a citizen even one meal a day; the countries that have suffered droughts and famine for decades. Now think of the countries that have extremist terrorist goups operating within their boarders, or the countries that have been divided by civil war for decades. In most cases, these are the same countries. I'm talking about many countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, some parts of Europe, and the Americas. Okay, that's the entire world, but for all intensive purposes, lets focus on Africa. When most people think of extreme poverty, Africa is usually the first to come to mind. Much of the African continent is covered by desert, and desertification, or the turning of fertile land into desert, is only increasing. This has caused much of the continent to experience famine for, in some cases, decades.

What's the solution? The hard truth is, the world is currently capable of feeding itself four times over. Solving world hunger is simply a logistical matter of getting agricultural goods where they are needed. As can be seen, private enterprise has been unable to accomplish this. So, in the case of the United States, if we had spent the 500 billion plus dollars that's been spent on the war in Iraq to pay for helping to distribute food, we would be well on our way to solving world hunger. This action would not only improve America's humanitarian image, which has been tarnished by this administration's policies, but by improving feelings towards America, it would also be fighting terrorism.

The point is, diplomacy is not only politicans using words to ease tensions, but it is also through the actions of a nation. It seems that America has largely ignored this for the past decade, and if America is to survive at its current level into the 21st Century, we need to do more to improve our image abroad.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Common Sense; It Comes and Goes

The Republicans Stand Up against Bush(it)

Finally, some common sense has reached the Republican party as they reject a proposal by Bush that would "authorize military tribunals and harsh interrogations of terror suspects in order to shield U.S. personnel from being prosecuted for war crimes under the Geneva Convention." Though these are clearly mid-term election tactics for the Republican Party (GOP) as they try to distance themselves from the president, this is a good step forward for the country. Democratic Party leaders were quick to point out how the White House has essentially alienated itself from the rest of the GOP.

Bush was quoted as saying on Friday "If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic...It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective."

Granted the U.S. tries to avoid killing innocent women and children to kill international terrorists, our tactics of extracting information from the terrorists are no worse than the terrorists themselves. The fact that Bush admitted the presence of secret CIA prisons, which is illegal under international law, and admitted the use of interrogation tactics that ride the line of being illegal, make this administration no better than those of Hitler and Stalin.

This follows on the heels of an interview on Larry King Live on Thursday with Sean Penn, who said that Bush has caused "enormous damage to mankind, and may bring fascism to America." He also called the War on Terror and the War in Iraq distractions from the current reality.

First A Cartoon, Now A 600-Year-Old Quote

This week, on a trip to Germany, Pope Benedict XVI made a quote from the Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II from the 14th Century which questions the logic of jihad, or holy war. The quote, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached," naturally upset the Muslim community. Before making the quote, the pontiff stressed that it was a quote two times. Vatican officials have said that the Pope didn't mean to offend the Muslim community, something the West seems to do fairly easily.

The West, especially America, has been dealing with tapes from terrorists like Bin Laden, who accuse America as being the great Satan and refer to Zionist plots, for years. I have yet to see Christians or Jews riot in the streets after one of these videos come out. The most you might get out of an American is an F-bomb directed to the terrorist leader himself and not much more. When the West draws a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, the entire Islamic community finds that reason enough to try and start WWIII. Even Iran's response by holding a contest to draw cartoons depicting the Holocaust only drew scornful remarks from U.N. Secretary General Koffi Annan and from Jewish leaders. No rioting.

The Pope seriously looks into the logic behind jihad, and the entire Islamic community takes it personally. Here are some of the quotes from Muslims on this issue.

"He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages. He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world...It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades."

"Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks, is going down in history for his words...He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as (Adolf) Hitler and (Benito) Mussolini."

This quote was the killer. Had it been said alone, it probably would have been fine. But in context with these other quotes, it contradicts itself. I'll let you draw you're own conclusions from this one.

"Anyone who describes Islam as a religion as intolerant encourages violence."

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Dubya Shifts (His Policies)

Today, our intrepid leader acknowledged that the CIA has secret prisons (like Hitler), and that terror suspects deserve rights under the Geneva convention (that America made). As the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks nears, along with the mid term elections in November, these are clearly election politics, although I don't know how admitting that we've done things similar to Hitler and Stalin will help the Republican party.

This also comes after Dubya called Iranian president Ahmadinejad the "tyrant of Iran." He clearly realized he was contradicting himself, because if he is calling Ahmadinejad a tyrant, than he must be tyrant, and needed to clear some things up. Considering he still has a few more speeches to go in this series, it will be interesting to see what he says next.

The Education System

Before I delve into the topic of the education system (here in America) I'd like to give any potential readers a brief history of where I've come from.
While I was in middle school, I didn't have a very positive experience. Granted some of the decisions I made lead to me having a crappy experience, but a lot of it had to do with the teachers. Thanks to Dubya's "No (Rich White) Child Left Behind" act, public schools have a set of standards that they must reach within a certain period of time, or face having the government come in and run the school. The teachers I had in middle school, with a few exceptions, seemed to be about the numbers. As long as most of their students were performing at a C average or better, they essentially said "screw you" to the students that were performing poorly.
In middle school I lacked the organizational skills and motivational skills to get A's in all my classes. Though the F I received in math in 8th grade was due to my teacher not being qualified to teach math. I don't mean to sound superficial, but I'm a smart student. My grades my first two years of high school at the Plaza Academy prove it, my grades at ONW right now prove it.
The fact that intelligent students like myself end up failing classes due to teachers not being qualified to teach is probably a big reason why America lags behind every other industrialized nation.

At the Plaza Academy, a small private school, it is about the student. The teachers genuinely care about the success of every student. For example, If an entire class fails a test, they make adjustments to the test or offer extra credit so students can bring their grade up.

In a public school, it is about the numbers, and more specifically the standards that the state sets for education. Are these standards necessary? Absolutely. But especially with middle school students, the solution isn't always to bog them down with homework. Studies show that at a certain point, homework can begin to harm a student's ability to perform in school (this varies from student to student.)

For me, I'm very sensitive to the amount of homework I get. I need free time, and when I'm able to have free time, I function better. Anyone who's known me since middle school can attest to this. The fact is, I enjoy learning, and learning for me doesn't stop at the school doors. I recently completed a 1:50 scale model of the International Space Station; done completely in my spare time, applying skills I had learned in math, and even learning new skills that I didn't learn in school until this summer.

With only an hours or so worth of homework each night, I'm making A's in every class except Physics, which is a B. I'm happier than I've ever been, and I can attest that happiness is the key to success. If schools want students to perform better, they need to make them feel more confident about their performance, because only once a student enjoys school, can they reach their full potential.