Posts Tagged With: News

Are You F***ing Serious?

Just finished reading in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the second straight day of riots at West Philadelphia High, after a popular principal learned he was being fired in a newspaper. Some quotes from the article: "Problems at West Philadelphia High exploded last week after teachers there complained that assaults on staff in some cases were being downplayed. Initially, Vallas said he would replace James soon but he speeded the process after another staffer was attacked. On Friday, several small fires were set in the school and another teacher was assaulted during an evacuation...Two female students were arrested at the school entrance when metal detectors found a razor on one and a nail file on the other - items prohibited under the district weapons policy. More arrests are pending for two small fires that were set in lockers. The school was evacuated at 11 a.m. and again a short time later. Attendance was down to between 40 and 50 percent yesterday, said Ozzie Wright, acting co-principal. It's usually at 75 percent." And then, the kicker - "District officials hope they can calm the school today so 11th graders can take the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment, the high-stakes test that determines whether schools meet federal achievement targets." I mean, come on, who's being kidded here? What are you going to say to the kids? "Hey there, I know we've had two fires and several assaults over the past week, but we really want you to show up to fill out some bubbles on a test that has no real purpose. The standardized test tells the state how smart you guys are." My guess is the smart students are at home, watching the Wire and looking out for their own safety. If I'm a WPHS student right now, there are bigger issues than a standardized test. Sorry, Philly school staff.

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Wikipedia

Middlebury College recently made headlines for banning the use of Wikipedia as a citation for a paper. I don't understand why this is even headline-worthy. There is no way you can cite Wikipedia, as this article should make clear. If I was grading papers and someone cited Wikipedia, I would laugh and then give it an F. Even better, if I was the professor I'd assign an essay on a topic, then go to the Wikipedia article and plant deliberate misinformation.

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Income Inequality

A lot of debate recently has been focused on the growing income gap in the United States. I am not that peeved by income inequality. Incomes at the top will rise as economies grow and companies become truly global. I am far more concerned if the equality pie is not helping the bottom 10% at all. In my opinion, better to earn 10,000 if the top is earning 1,000,000 than to earn 4,000 if the top is earning 15,000. There's more for everyone to go around, even if the slice is smaller. I would measure economic progress by how much the income of the bottom 10% is rising. However, recent research suggests people might not be happier in the more-for-everyone scenario. Steven Pinker had a great quote in the book How the Mind Works: A society can be fair, free or equal, but not all three. Income inequality strikes at the balance between being fair and being equal. I would propose taxing death more heavily so that funds cannot be easily transferred from one generation to the next. This could help make the country a better meritocracy.

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It’s Still 2006, And the Midterms Were A Month Ago

Do we really need to start wondering now about who's going to run for president in 2008? The election is a full two years away and yet we are already casting the unforgiving glare of public attention on our potential candidates. That's a long two years of not screwing up any Senate votes, staying consistent with your opinions (avoiding categorization as a flopper), and not pulling any George Allens. I want a rest from political speculation. Let's focus our attention on the current officials.

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The Cost of War

National Priorities Project has calculated the cost of the Iraq War per taxpayer and broken it down in terms of state, county, and town costs. Currently, the war has cost the average taxpayer $1075 and the average family $2844. The closest town to me has paid a shade over $100 million toward the war effort alone. The $300-odd check every taxpayer received for voting for Bush in 2000 (his solution to the budget surplus, which no longer exists) pales next to this amount. This war money is money we could be using to jump-start our economy, by the logic of supply side economics. Or towards ending extreme poverty, or any other large number of better causes. I hate to see my money go towards killing innocent civilians and American soldiers. Unfortunately, if we pulled out now, we would save money and American lives but the situation would deteriorate further. It would be as if a contractor charged you for renovating, and then left your house torn up and all the furniture outside.

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Pluto Loses Planetary Status

Pluto, the relatively small hunk of rock past Neptune, got demoted from planetary status today by a committee of astronomers. Start thinking of new acronyms, folks, because "My very educated mother just served us nine pies" isn't gonna cut it anymore. Seeing as nothing moves faster than light, it's possible Pluto is revolving out in space unaware of its new status.

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Airport Security

John Tierney writes in the NYT about reducing wait times and improving security at airports (subscription req'd). About a security experiment in Dulles:
The screeners at Dulles stopped worrying about pen knives, shoes and laptops, allowing passengers to pass through more quickly. The speed of the line increased by nearly a third. The screening process required fewer workers, but they detected more problems because they worked smarter. Instead of looking for things, they looked at people. Borrowing techniques from Israeli airports and the U.S. Customs Service, screeners observed a passenger as he entered the airport, checked luggage and stood in line at the security checkpoint.
This is an altogether sensible policy that I hope can be adopted on a wide scale. There are two components to any successful air attack - an instrument of death and someone to use the instrument. As US security can't prevent a determined bomber from putting explosives on a plane, keeping an eye out for suspicious behaviors could be the only way to stop a terrorist at that late a stage.

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BBC NEWS | Business | Wal-Mart boss sentenced for theft

Tom Coughlin, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Smykowski from the movie Office Space, was sentenced to jail for stealing from Wal-Mart. His doctors testified he was 'in too poor health' to go to jail, which sounds to me like bullshit. If you're rich, and you have apnea, don't worry about committing crime because you might not have to do the time. Of course if you don't have fantastic lawyers or doctors there exists no such protection. I am for the rich and famous serving the same sentences as the poor.

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