Archive for March, 2007

If it’s brown, drink it down. If it’s black send it back.

March 29, 2007

An avid Simpsons fan, I had to open this particular blog in this manner. When discussing the water quality in Springfield, Homer Simpson demonstrates his boundless wisdom in whether the water should be consumed. Oddly enough, this relates to my newest entry: the arrival of 102 Hatians on a Florida beach. (The Cubans are allowed to stay, but the Hatians are sent home…)

I’d like to address two aspects of this issue. First, I will take the (stereotypically) Republican stance and ask why the hell were 102 people, sailing in BROAD DAYLIGHT in a sorry excuse for a boat able to get past our Coast Guard?! We are one of the most hated countries in the world right now, supposedly on the brink of some sort of terrorist annihilation every moment of the day… and our Coast Guard misses possibly the most blatant attempt to reach U.S. soil by the Florida coast. Let’s get the whole “national security” thing together, okay? Okay. Now, with that out of the way, on to the liberal mush!!!

102 Hatians, one boat, three weeks, thousands of dreams.

Of course, as illegal immigrants, these men and women will be sent back to Haiti where they will once again continue life in poverty-stricken muck where the political oppression has a more sickening stench than the garbage and filth in which they are forced to live. While watching CNN, the footage of the deeply colored men and women of a land so far away glowed from the television screen. I couldn’t begin to describe the emotions I felt watching the event. The question of immigration is one of the big debates surrounding politics today, and it is obviously something to be addressed.

Obviously, immigration MUST be regulated. We cannot merely allow thousands and millions of immigrants enter the United States illegaly. This “gunks up” our system of government, costs money, and just isn’t logical. However, how can so many Americans be so willing to throw these people out of the U.S.?

If you haven’t seen the footage of the Hatians landing on Florida’s beach, I strongly suggest you find a way to see it. Watching these men and woman so overwhelmed with emotion pour out of that small, dilapidated boat is one of the most moving experiences I have ever seen. These are modern (and colored, haha) examples of the 15th Century English. They are the Scottish and Irish, the German, Italian, and French. Just like our ancestors, the earliest immigrants, they traveled a horribly long, tiring, and dangerous journey in order to escape the horrors of their home country and taste what millions of people here call, “The American Dream”.

Yes, they will bring their cultures with them. Do you honestly expect them to leave behind their heritage and everything that was, at some point, beautiful about their country? (And by the way, the reason so many of these Third World countries are in the shape they’re in is due to colonization in the 17th and 18th Centuries and Imperialism in the 19th Century) Yes, at times they may bring their own religion, and yes, it may not be Christianity (contrary to popular belief, the U.S. wasn’t even itself founded on Christianity. The Founding Fathers were Deists, a very interesting and notable point).

I think that a regulated, lawful allowance of immigrants into the United States is something that can further enrich our country a great deal. We are the “land of opportunity”, but are often not willing to let many people in on the spoils. The 102 Hatians that poured off that boat did not come to lay on a beach and “suck up welfare”. They came to work. They came here to receive an education, to live a life full of meaning and hope. They came to give their children the opportunity to live in a world where they will not be forced to enter the profession of child prostitution, a world free from random government killings and censorship of every kind. They came to be free.

So no, we cannot let anyone and everyone into the United States free of regulation and free from a watchful eye, but we CAN find a way to monitor and account for all that come here. Let them learn English; let them get jobs; let them contribute to the country for which they are willing to die. It is certain that their children will appreciate their parents’ struggles and all that America has given them, and it is certain that they will in turn do all that they can to become educated, upstanding citizens of the United States of America.

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When you outlaw guns…

March 28, 2007

A wild boar head sits proudly over our mantle in the livingroom; a few quail feathers from a very memorable hunting trip hang high on the wall inside our garage; some of the most perfectly assassinated paper-person-targets are kept as memorabelia in our basement. I know the exact size and shape of the bright orange discs used in trap shooting; I’ve tasted (and enjoyed) fresh deer jerkey. I am the daughter of a gun owner, the daughter of a member of the NRA.

I have often heard a cascade of pro-gun propoganda pour into my ears on more occasions than I could ever possibly count, and although these constant reminders of one of my dad’s favorite hobbies can be found just about anywhere in my house, when it comes to the actual guns themselves, well they’re just about never seen. Although I know that some of his guns are held in a massive bank safe (to which no one but my father knows the combination) I’m honestly not sure where the bullets are. The only time I see his guns out are when he is cleaning them, and at that point, they’re in about 15 different pieces. Especially as a child, I can claim for a fact that I never saw one of those weapons out unattended.

This long introduction was pretty much to show everyone that I grew up around a law-abiding, cautious, responsible gun owner. I’ve personally seen firearms used for nothing except extremely safe sport and enjoyment. So, of course, when it comes to the 2nd Amendment, for me, there’s no question. Recently, Mayor Daley (Chicago) has promoted SB16, a gun control act that, above all, states that it is prohibited to “knowingly manufacture, deliver, sell, purchase, or possess or cause to be manufactured, delivered, sold, purchased, or possessed a semi-automatic assault weapon, an assault weapon attachment, any .50 caliber rifle, or .50 caliber cartridge”. Yikes! All around the country, gun control laws and laws banning the ownership of firearms are popping up more and more often.

In my opinion (and remember, opinions are like…) the banning and severe restriction of firearms is a route that the U.S. should be hesitant to travel down. Let’s take the ever-classic example of prohibition. When alcohol was prohibited, mob activity flourished and thrived. Speakeasies had massive profits. Those willing to break the law got the most out of prohibition and benefited greatly from it. Violence of all sorts (mostly mob related, as different groups tried to control the flow of alcohol) ran through the country. The bottom line is: Prohibition did not work. Rather, it increased illegal activity and made alcohol something that was no longer regulated by government to reach safety and quality requirements. People continued to drink.

My history classes here at school have taught me, among other things, that we have to look to history and learn from it. We have to find parallels that will help us prepare for the future (and yeah, even the present). History DOES tend to repeat itself, and outlawing firearms poses a number of threats to our society. When guns are made illegal, law abiding citizens will not possess them, but convicts will.

While I do agree that strict background checks should be done before one is allowed to buy a firearm, we must remember that the black market exists. Just look at how easy it is for millions of people to obtain illicit drugs. I am 19 years old, and I have already witnessed friends use marijuana, cocaine, and speed. The black market is far-reaching, and this is probably the area in which our law enforcement officials should focus. The upstanding citizen selling guns from his privately owned shop is not the person we need to worry about. And while the “good citizens” of this country would discard and destroy their weapons, what type of opportunity would this pose for the criminals of the U.S.?

Ah, and to finish my title, a quote my dad has shared with me time and time again:
When you outlaw guns, only the outlaws have them.

Some education, please, with a side of opportunity.

March 20, 2007

I am currently a freshman at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, double-majoring in political science and Spanish, and upon graduation, I would like to attend law school and hopefully become an active player in the world of politics. Coming from a lower-middle-class family in a Chicago suburb, this was no easy feat. My parents scraped and saved to send me to Fenwick High School in Oak Park, Ill. (roughly $8,000 per year) where I worked diligently for four years and was surrounded by students who wanted to learn and a faculty and staff who would give anything to teach the subjects for which they were so passionate. The standards for success were placed high up on a pinnacle that turned my high school into a journey toward knowledge that helped students develop a strong desire for personal achievement. I finally ended up at my dream school here in Milwaukee, and needless to say, I consider education to be one of the most important values within any society.

I participate in service work at an urban middle school here in Milwaukee, most of which is done with 12- and 13-year-old children, many of whom only speak Spanish. However, you cannot possibly imagine my surprise, and even my sadness, when I discovered that most of the children I would be working with were barely literate. While fundamental development of literacy skills begins at home, I still cannot help but feel mortified that even the English-speaking children passed 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th grade and were still unable to recognize basic words in their texts.

I am by no means an advocate for equality of outcome, but I am a vehement believer in equality of opportunity. Many parents, especially those in urban areas, simply cannot afford Catholic schooling, and public education is their only option. To me, this would not be a real problem if so many American public schools weren’t such a disgrace. Low property taxes and a lack of state funding leave the poorest towns with the worst education systems, creating a cycle of poverty and illiteracy that is extremely difficult to escape. While wealthier towns are able to support better public schools, the poorer towns are left with little resources. Even students with all the drive and determination in the world become stuck as they are surrounded by thousands of other students who just don’t care and dozens of teachers who don’t care enough to MAKE them care. The standards are set horrifically low and the road to success is short and unchallenging.

For example, “Yearbook” is offered as an English credit at my town’s high school to fulfill the state’s mandatory four-year English requirement. How will skills in yearbook help students perform well on their ACTs and SATs or write adequate essays for college applications? They won’t. While I am not saying that a typical four-year college is for everyone, the opportunity is. Even if students do not wish to attend a university, it is still crucial that they have the basic skills to file their taxes, read the newspaper, create monthly budgets for themselves, write a letter to a state representative, keep track of their checking accounts or finance a mortgage.

Bottom line: let’s give these kids a fighting chance. Stop cheating them out of their right to an adequate education. Stop stealing their ability to succeed. Stop un-equalizing opportunity.

Depleted Uranium is a War Crime…maybe?

March 8, 2007

I first came across the use of depleted uranium in the Middle East about a year ago while writing a blog for an environmental science class. I still feel that it’s an extremely important issue with which to be familiar, so I decided to write another entry about the substance. I feel that this issue is one that is not well known. I have never heard anything about it on the television, in newspapers, magazines, or on the radio. I was made aware of its existence through a song, oddly enough…

Uranium is a radioactive material found in the earth’s crust. After the isotopes U-235 and U-234 are removed to make nuclear fuel, “depleted uranium” is what is left. Within the past couple decades, depleted uranium has been discovered to be practically impenetrable by just about any other substance. Thus, our tanks are often covered with the substance in order to act as a sheild while our bullets are tipped in it to infiltrate the armor of our enemies. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right?

The Pentagon has released a statement saying that depleted uranium is 40% less toxic than regular uranium, so it presents a far smaller danger. However, how much help can that be when “…A-10 Warthog aircraft…fired 300,000 bullets. The normal combat mix for these 30-mm rounds is five DU bullets to 1 – a mix that would have left about 75 tons of DU in Iraq.”? The Christian Science Monitor (http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0515/p01s02a-woiq.htm)

The alpha particle radiation emitted by DU is easily deflected by the skin. However, when the DU burns (usually on impact; or as a dust, it can spontaneously ignite) the skin can no longer suffice as protection, and dangerous radioactive oxides are created that can be inhaled or ingested. “If allowed to enter the body, depleted uranium, like natural uranium, has the potential for both chemical and radiological toxicity with the two important target organs being the kidneys and the lungs.” -Depleted UF6 Management Information Network

Funny enough, during the Gulf War and under President George H.W. Bush, depleted uranium was also utilized in the Middle East. However, utilization of the substance was brought to a hault: Depleted uranium is more of a problem than we thought when it was developed. But it was developed according to standards and was thought through very carefully. It turned out, perhaps, to be wrong.”
— Brent Scowcroft, National Security Advisor to President George Bush in 1991 Gulf War .”

U.S. Representative, Jim McDermott has taken a strong stance against the use of depleted uranium in America’s most recent war and has stated, ““Both the Leukemia rates in children and malformations at birth had increased by 600% and it was clearly an epidemic where all this DU had been dumped… It becomes a dust that can be inhaled and infect the blood stream and the rest of the body.” Some of his speeches and writings on the subject can be found here http://www.house.gov/mcdermott/sp050517.shtml

According to the U.S. State Department, depleted uranium is virtually harmless. It is a false threat to the safety of our soldiers and those living in the Middle East. Its dangers have been fabricated. No scientific proof can be found as to the harm the substance can cause. This is a site on the State Department’s opinion of the substance: http://usinfo.state.gov/media/Archive/2005/Jan/24-107572.html

Personally, I feel that we simply do not know enough of the substance. If it is harmless, why was its use terminated during the Gulf War for fear of the harm we were doing? Sites that have been contaminated by depleted uranium display signs warning citizens to keep away. Another point worth mentioning, depleted uranium has a half life of 4.5 billion years. This means that before the substance is COMPLETELY “decomposed”, it will remain in the environment (or in the body) for 9 billion years. Nine. Billion. Years. Could it be possible that many of the effects are long term and will not be seen for 100 years or so? Of course.

Just like many other aspects of the war in Iraq, the use of depleted uranium is eerily similar to actions during the Vietnam War. Any guesses which? Yep. Our use of Agent Orange. History has taught us a grave lesson in THOUROUGHLY studying and understanding chemicals used in warfare before diving right into the latest fad. In order to act ethically and humanely in this situation, I feel that it is only right to immediately discontinue our use of depleted uranium until furthur studies can be conducted. After knowing the consequences of the substance in their entirety, we can then make a moral decision. We cannot punish future generations that will know nothing of this war with the (possibility) of leukemia, serious birth defects, and environmental degredation.

We have to stop before we make an irrevokable mistake.

I just think this site is neat…

March 6, 2007

www.costofwar.com

…and somewhat scary.

The Dishonor in Doping

March 2, 2007

As the endless cycle of steroid abuse by some of our country’s top athletes becomes more and more wide-spread, the United States government has FINALLY began to crack down on offenders, infiltrating the world of sports and taking actions to correct the problem that pro sports have no authority to do. However, problems still loom in detecting these steroids, including the lack of a completely reliable test for Human Growth Horomone (HGH) and the increasing development of “designer steroids”, that is, those that cannot be tested for.

My observations lie not in whether it is moral or immoral to utilize controlled substances, but the clear and obvious dishonor of our pro athletes who choose the path of steroids. If anyone reading this ever listens to Mike and Mike in the Morning on ESPN Radio (and if you don’t I STRONGLY suggest you do), you have probably heard them ask, “Is there room for honor in sports?” Being an absolutely obsessed fan of The Chicago White Sox and Major League Baseball in general, this question plagues me a great deal. Where has the talent gone? I’m not talking the ability to post 70 home runs in a season. I truly mean, where has the finesse, the agility, the heart, the charisma, the character, and the sheer sweat, ability, and soul gone to? As steriod use has become more and more typical, pro sports have turned into something that calls for nothing more than merely bulk to succeed. Where is the REAL competition? Simple: the real competition lies in one’s ability to find the most efficient and effective ‘roids. To find the most trustworthy doctor who won’t write a book titled “Dopey Dopers” and send you up the river five years from now. The real talent lies in cheating.

So, Mike and Mike, to answer your question personally, yes, I truly believe that there is still room for honor in sports. However, it is up to the fans to refuse to settle for steroid-abusing meat heads as a sorry excuse for talent. My own opinion is this: zero tolerance. When an Olympic champion is discovered to have used performance enhancing drugs, his or her medal is stripped away. End of story. His/her records? Not in the books. This same swiftness must be executed within ALL pro sports. Barry Bonds, you’ve used? And for how long? Bye. Out of the MLB. Your contract? Extinguished. There is no place for you in American athletics. Mark McGuire, you too? Your record: gone. Your name? Out of the books. You are not welcome in baseball anymore. Users, beware: You will also enjoy time in prison like any other average crack head plaguing the streets, because that is really all that you are- a drug addict. Watch out though, in prison, it’s not needles that get stuck in your rear…