Henry Pendleton- Blog Post #5

During this past week Dianne Feinstein took the Senate floor as the Senate Intelligence Chairwoman in a fiery outrage accusing the Central Intelligence agency of spying on congress.  She accused them of sabotaging efforts from Senate staffers to investigate the possibility of torture, such as water boarding from the CIA during the Bush administration.  It said that the CIA both lied to the committee in charge of the investigation along with hacking the computers.  The CIA’s internal report on their going-on’s and torture practices was accidently made available to the Feinstein and her Committee.  After learning about their mistake they tried to fix it by hacking the staffers computers and stealing the incriminating documents back.  This has been an on going trial since congress caught wind that there was a possibility that the Central Intelligence Agency might have been using water boarding as a technique to interrogate terrorists in the after math of 9/11

When Senator Feinstein had the floor she was quoted saying, “[The CIA] violated the separation-of-powers principals embodied in the United States Constitution.”  Clearly stated in the CIA charter it says that any domestic spying is strictly forbidden and this incident falls clearly in to this category.  I understand and support the fact that the Central Intelligence agency has a fair amount of leeway in foreign affairs to ensure the safety of the United States, and for national security there ongoing can be opaque and not very straightforward.   But the entire system collapses the moment they start to not only spy domestically but on the government in which it is a part of.  All trust is lost and the last thing we need is for everyone to be looking over his or her shoulders when the government direly needs to work smoothly.  

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Morgan McGlothlin, Entry #5

http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/03/17/former-gov-ex-convict-edwin-edwards-to-run-for-congress/?hpt=po_c2

 

Former Gov., ex-convict Edwin Edwards to run for Congress

 

Edwin Edwards is hoping to run for Louisiana’s 6th congressional district in the next election. Edwards has been released from prison for three years now, after being convicted for racketeering,conspiracy, and extortion.

 

Edwards is not new to government. He was governor from 1978-1980 and later elected in 1981, and then again in 1991. His reputation is not great. The Republican Party of Louisiana said, while he was in office, he, “higher taxes, increased gambling and a culture of corruption that has harmed our image and business climate for decades.” An ex-convict with a bad record in office, Edwards doesn’t seem like the most ideal candidate for congress.

 

But how do we gauge how bad a person can be until they should just give up and not be allowed to run? Are there even limits on what you can have on your record to run for office? Stephen Nodine writes, “The Constitution lists three conditions one must meet to be a candidate for the House of Representatives — you must be at least 25 years old, have been a citizen for at least seven years and live in the state you hope to represent. These are all that are required, and states may not add to them, for example, by prohibiting a felon from running for office.” (politifact.com) If Edwards believes he can serve the people of Louisiana in an effective way, I give him the best of luck in his run for office.

 

Citations

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jun/25/stephen-nodine/can-convicted-felon-run-congress-jail/

 

Brett Schmieder #5

In the 1980’s a PBS series rocked the foundation of scientific education and, as David Itzkoff of The New York Post said, it was a “watershed moment for science-themed television.”  Cosmos: A personal Voyage was written and narrated by Carl Sagan with support from fellow scientists.  This thirteen part series proved the importance of educating the next generation of children on the origin of our life, and thus showing them our place in the universe.  Fox picked up the most widely watched series in 2014 with Neil DeGrasse Tyson has the narrator. 

During the premiere of Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey President Barack Obama had a 33 second intro where he emphasized the importance of striving to understand frontiers that we have yet to explore fully.  I believe that it is crucial for Americans of all ages to appreciate and understand the scientific advancements that are abundant in our modern society.  This goal will not only motivate the younger generation to explore their interests in Science, but it will allow America, but it will inspire the world to continue developing and enhancing our understanding and implementation of scientific innovations.

 My personal interest in science and desire to see the world continue its advancements and understandings brought me to watch the Creationism Vs. Evolution debate by Bill Nye and Ken Ham.  As a sign of my gratitude for the goal that Bill Nye, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and many other scientists strive for, I emailed Mr. Nye this letter hoping that he and his fellow scientists will never stop striving to understand the mis-understood. 

“Hi Mr. Nye

     My name is Brett Schmieder and I live in Virginia.  I have had the honor of watching your show “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” since middle school…. and admittedly into my high-school career.  Currently I am a senior in High school, and thus I have been “forced” to confront my future plans.  Thanks to your videos and AMA’s, I have fallen in love with the subject of science, specifically biology.  Because of this I will be pursuing my dream of becoming a pediatric oncologist in college, but that is not why I am writing you.  I am writing you because, although I have not had the privilege of meeting you, you have been a very influential person in my life.  I watched the live stream of your Creationism vs. Evolution debate with Ken Ham and I can honestly say that you did a superb job.  I just wanted to thank you for your determination to get kids of all ages into science, and I hope that I will be able to join in on your movement when I get older.  

     Just a quick tid-bit- the most influential thing that I have ever read was Carl Sagen’s “The Pale Blue Dot,” but sadly I believe that it has not gotten the publicity that it deserves.  This simple picture coupled with a few paragraphs has the power to change the perception of our place in the cosmos for many people.  I have spoken at my school about this, and almost everyone was truly moved by it.  So I was thinking if you were to respond or add to “The pale Blue Dot” on your website, more people will become aware of it and its message will get out further into the world.

 

Thank you from a future scientist, admirer, and a dreamer

Brett Schmieder

 

P.S. you probably get this all the time but you have brought back the bowtie…… and during your debate last night I learned how to tie one so again …..thank you”

Eddie Campell #5: Putin Follows Path of True Dictator, West Remains Ambivalent

As most up-to-date Americans are aware of, there has been a great deal of controversy regarding Russian President Vladimir Putin and his capricious actions. Most recently, Putin took up an old battle with Ukraine, annexing the southern-most peninsula of Crimea as a part of Russia. He then also fortified that new border with Ukraine with Russian soldiers, of which Putin refutes to have any affiliation with (a humorously vain bluff).  Crimea was a public issue for all but a week. Putin saw, he came, and he conquered before anyone had proper time to respond with a rational proposal. Now, Western world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel are anxious that Putin’s crazy power grab will mean an invasion of Ukraine. Despite this fervent quest to re-instate the Soviet Union of the ’70s, much of the world seems content to play off Crimea as just Russia asserting its sphere of influence. However, as Gary Kasparov delineates, the West is not so much concerned with the civil liberties of Russia, Ukraine, Eastern Europe, and its peoples more than it is with the economic advantages it has with not intervening militarily with Russia. If the United States, Britain, or Germany, for example, were to rebuke the actions of Russia, they would all be alienating the millions of dollars Russian investors put into those foreign banks. All the while, Russia’s constituents are silenced by an omnipresent fear of voicing their opinions and the rest of the world sits dumb in their chairs, fearing the money in their pockets. Kasparov argues that Putin’s strategies are damningly reminiscent of Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930’s. While not placing the two on a parallel, he does point out the inherent similarities in their actions. Kasparov, chairman of the Human Rights Foundation in NYC, argues that world leaders need to face the facts and take action or else Putin will repeat history in an unsavory fashion.

I understand where Mr. Kasparov is coming from; with an incumbent congress that moves about as a fast as a drop of syrup from a Maple tree, it’s understandable to believe that this inactivity would bleed into the other branches of our government. However, I have faith that President Obama as well as other world leaders, such as England’s David Cameron and Germany’s Angela Merkel, will spur into action soon enough to counteract Putin’s military force. For one, if anyone is to be wary of another megalomaniac dictator conquering Europe, it would be Germany. Trying to just ignore the past, despite what Kasparov implies, seems too ignorant even of the most ineffective governments in the world. As far as the economics of Russia’s aggression go from America’s perspective, the millions of dollars a military intervention would require seems impossible in America’s financial climate, let alone our inherent cash motives. Besides, this nation has acted as the world’s police more than enough the past couple decades. This is a problem, as the article mentioned, that Russia and Europe have to solve for themselves. Ultimately, the onus is on them.

All that being said, I completely side with Chairman Kasparov in his opinions and in his writing of this article. World leaders need pressure put on them if they are to act swiftly and in the interests of their citizens. I suppose after all I am just a naive high school senior  who foolhardily believes in the ability of world leaders to do the right things.

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/03/vladmir-putin-crimea-hitler-1938-104711_Page2.html#.UydD8IUyvX4

Angela Langdon, Entry #5

Around 9:30 am Thursday, an explosion demolished two New York City apartment buildings located just north of Central Park. The explosion was heard for miles as smoke billowed above the city. Over 160 firefighters were sent to battle the resulting fire while they looked for residents of the buildings. The cause of the explosion is reported to be caused by a gas leak that had been a long time problem according to residents. One of the residents said he complained about the gas as recently as Tuesday, saying, “It was unbearable.” About 15 minutes before the explosion, a neighboring resident reported smelling gas and a 12 person NTSB go team was on its way to check it out. There are conflicting reports, but sadly there have been an estimated 8 deaths and 60 injuries. Luckily, none of the responders were hurt.

                The explosion is extremely unfortunate in many ways. First of all, the problem was clearly not new and if it had been fixed lives would have been saved. A tenant in the building said the smell of gas was so strong that a resident on the top floor broke open the door to the roof for ventilation. He also said that city officials had been called about the odor. It’s crazy that nobody took this seriously enough to investigate it in a timely manner.  Also, the explosion clearly stirred fears for New Yorkers in the surrounding areas. Caregivers at a nearby daycare center said the children heard the explosion and the staff said they immediately thought of the 9/11 terror attacks. More recently than that were the bombings in Boston and a nearby market owner thought a bomb was the source of the explosion. I think it’s safe to say that this explosion caused a lot of fear and anxiety in New Yorkers when it likely could have been prevented. Thankfully it wasn’t a terrorist attack and had it been given the proper attention it could have been prevented. It’s just sad that people are living in fear and assume it’s a bomb when these things happen. It’s also extremely sad that people had to lose loved ones and all of their belongings to something that should have been prevented. Hopefully this inspires new protocol to prevent situations like this from happening again. 

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/03/13/reported-missing-in-new-york-harlem-building-collapse-death-toll-at-7/

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2014/03/13/new-york-city-fire-department-responds-to-reports-large-building-explosion-in/

Marissa Ray, Entry #5

 

          In his article, “Why the conservative defense of inequality makes no sense”, Ryan Cooper argues against Greg Mankiw’s assertion that the wealthy deserve their money by saying that Mankiw’s logic is faulty because it implies that the poor deserve to be poor. While I agree with Cooper in the sense that the ‘just deserts’ concept of economic distribution does not apply because it does not apply to everyone, the logic that Cooper uses to ‘validate’ his own argument is completely beside the point. In his article, Cooper references the “Solow residual” to make the point that none of the wealth that big business owners, like Steve Jobs, have accumulated actually belongs to them because their products were based of of the research and discoveries made by others. This argument might make sense if one did not take into account that America has a capitalist economy. However, our economy is based on competition, so Cooper’s logic does not follow, especially because he goes on to bring in the creation of the English language and being able to repay the ‘debt of motherhood”. But as much as Cooper’s reasoning in his argument against Mankiw’s assertion is faulty, I must agree with Cooper’s ultimate point: that the ‘just desserts” method of justifying the distribution of wealth in the country is faulty because it implies that the poorer deserve to be poor. The inequality in the distribution of wealth should not be justified, politicians should focus on endeavoring to close the gap between the wealthy and the poor rather than trying to justify it.

 

http://theweek.com/article/index/258098/why-the-conservative-defense-of-inequality-makes-no-sense

Shelby Thornhill- Blog Entry #5

“I am living proof that America’s system of capital punishment is broken beyond repair.” The chilling account of Kirk Bloodsworth, the first wrongfully imprisoned man to be released after DNA testing on evidence, shows readers how terribly broken America’s capital punishment system really is.

After being convicted for the murder of a 9 year old girl, Bloodsworth was sent to jail and given the death penalty. Many false witness testimonies and speculation led to his conviction, a conviction that would ultimately prove to be wrong. After spending six years in prison, serving a lowered sentence of back to back life sentences, Bloodsworth walked out a free man when DNA testing proved that he was not guilty of this heinous crime. 10 years later, the little girl’s real killer was identified.

While Bloodsworth was lucky enough to be cleared of a wrongful conviction, other innocent prisoners facing the death penalty are not so fortunate. Along with serving unnecessary years in jail, it was hard for Bloodsworth to reenter society after his release. To his neighbors and community members he was still the man who killed the little girl. In addition, the government also had to reward him $300,000 in compensation for missed work time. These reasons and many others seem to be why support of the death penalty is slowly declining.

It’s inevitable that people make mistakes- that’s what makes us human. But, witness misidentification is one of the leading causes of innocent people being arrested and ultimately sentenced to death for crimes they didn’t commit. As more and more states begin to abolish the death penalty, hopefully it becomes more obvious in the coming years that life sentences are enough- even for the most heinous crimes. It’s one thing to sentence a vicious criminal to death, but can you be 100% sure that this criminal is actually guilty, and not just a victim of the system himself?

http://us.cnn.com/2014/03/07/opinion/bloodsworth-death-penalty/?iref=obinsite

Bisma Zaman, Blog Entry #5

Guinness boycotts St. Patrick’s Day parade over gay exclusion: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/guinness-boycotts-st-patricks-day-parade   

      While Saint Patrick’s Day is recognized and celebrated world-wide, a major trademark of this holiday is the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. It is centered around the idea of people coming together, marching, and celebrating their heritage, yet this year it has become more complicated than that. The organizers of the parade have made it a rule that gay and lesbian groups are not to identify themselves as gay while marching, which has aroused an immense amount of controversy. 

       A previously leading supporter and producer of beer for the parade, Guinness, has dropped its sponsorship of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade due to the exclusion of gay and lesbian groups. The company stated, “Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade. As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation”. Similarly New York Mayor Bill de Blasio did not participate in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade over the policy to ban marchers who carry gay-pride signs. He said, “I will be participating in a number of other events to honor the Irish heritage of this city, but I simply disagree with the organizers of that parade”. 

     Guinness helped make a statement about equal rights for all. Their withdrawal from the parade put into perspective the changes occurring in society. It also helped to shine light on the situation and unite other members against the exclusion of lgbt groups. New York’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio, also contributed by placing this issue on a political scale. The article states, “More than 45 city councilors, state legislators who represent Boston, statewide elected officials, U.S. representatives and senators, and gubernatorial hopefuls will not be participating on Sunday.” I believe that as leaders of our country and specifically their own states it is essential that they uphold and protect the interests of all people. As granted by the First Amendment, all people, including lgbt members should have the freedom of speech and their civil liberties should be protected. While exclusion and discrimination still occurs it is important to look at founding principles to make decisions and judgments about the future of our society. 

Jane Braswell, Entry #5

The Washington Post – Some Prosecutors Fighting to Eliminate Mandatory Minimum Prison Sentences

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/some-prosecutors-fighting-effort-to-eliminate-mandatory-minimum-prison-sentences/2014/03/13/f5426fc2-a60f-11e3-a5fa-55f0c77bf39c_story.html

According to the Washington Post front page article on Friday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has endorsed an amendment to the federal sentencing guidelines calling for the elimination of mandatory minimum prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.  It is drawing criticism from the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys who say that sentencing would take away their “most effective tool to get cooperation from offenders.”

Critics say that he is just trying to cut federal prison spending.  Holder agrees that it would “rein in federal prison spending while focusing limited resources on the most serious threats to public safety.” While supporters of Holder’s plan agree that it will reduce prison overcrowding, they also stress that the new guidelines would allow sentences to be variable based on the level of guilt among defendants in a large drug ring.  Holder is suggesting that we should look at the circumstances of each case along with the defendant’s past history to determine an appropriate charge instead of automatically slapping them with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 to 20 years.

According to the Justice Department, prosecutors and attorneys can express their opinions on this suggested policy chafe, but they don’t make make policy. They must follow their guidelines.

Prison overcrowding and spending is an issue that needs to be addressed. I think Attorney General Holder has found an effective way to cut spending and reduce prison overcrowding with his proposed amendment.  In my view, it is not just some arbitrary cut that he is proposing. It would also be a fair and appropriate change. I find the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys’ plea reprehensible. To have a mandatory harsh sentence as a deterrent for a crime is one thing, but to have it as a bargaining or blackmailing tool is not ethical. 

Mallory Ackerson; Post #5

A New Jersey teenager sued her parents after accusing them of throwing her out of their home after she turned 18. When in actuality she left the house and moved into her best friend’s home after her and her parents fought over their rules. Her best friend’s parents helped her make a case and hired a high profile lawyer to defend her in this trial. She was suing them for the rest of her private high school education cost, 650 dollars a week in living expenses and all four years of college and expenses. In a turn of events, she has now moved back into her parent’s house and wishes to drop all charges.

This case has caused much publicity for both families involved. It has raised questions about the friend’s parents such as why they would hire one of the highest profile lawyers out there. It seems that the friend’s parents almost instigated the whole ordeal claiming that the other parents abused their daughter. It all just seems a little shady. The judge even gave the teenager some strong words after she asked to drop the charges. This case in general seems a little off. This girl will now have to live with the, for lack of better word, drama she has created for no reason. Her life will never go back to the way it was before; she made national news, people are talking about her and what she did. She will have to deal with this for a very long time.