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Problems for Obama? by dedoty
July 27, 2008, 1:13 am
Filed under: Politics

With investor and consumer confidence rising, a recent jump in sales of new homes, and the apparent success of George Bush’s troop surge, one has to wonder if Obama might well start to stumble in the coming months. Though supporters cannot admit it – it would discredit his “newpolitik” appeal – Obama, like all politicians, does play on America’s fears for political gain. Fears of another Vietnam, of a collapsing economy, of diminished standing in world affairs…each lives in the hearts of potential Obamacons all across the country, and his success in bringing them to the forefront without looking like a fear monger certainly contributes to his strong showing in national polls.

But what if the problems start to fade? If this economic recovery proves to be more than a temporary upswing, and victory in Iraq sounds less like an ironic slogan and more like a realistic possibility, it will be much harder to sell Americans on the idea that the Half-White Knight is the only man who can save us from a bumbling, out-of-touch Republican party. Traditional concerns like social security reform, energy independence, and colonizing Mars will play a bigger role in America’s choice for President, and Obama won’t be able to rely so heavily on his hope-filled promises to lead us out of the darkness.

Common sense would dictate that a Republican has no chance in this year’s elections. John McCain may be old, he may support the Iraq War, and he may be the most unpleasantly sarcastic man ever to race for the presidency, but I still cannot subscribe to the notion that Barack Obama’s victory is a foregone conclusion. This race is far from over, and, though it is unfortunate, America’s messianic perception of Obama has left him nowhere to go but down.

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Whatever Happened to Mr. Ed? by dedoty
July 22, 2008, 12:45 am
Filed under: Movie Review | Tags: , , ,

I’m sorry that “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is the first thing I’ve posted about in over a month, but sometimes you see something that hurts your heart so badly, you just need to write about it.  I was going to turn this blog post into a diatribe against Andy Garcia for selling himself out and appearing alongside Drew Barrymore in a movie about Chihuahuas until I remembered that he left his dignity in the coatroom at the premier of Ocean’s 12.  Worst Movie Ever.  I would like, then, to take this opportunity to address a short open letter to Disney and any other producers out there who might have unfortunate thoughts of making another “talking dogs” movie.

Dear Producers,

You know, I really used to love your animal movies.  Dumbo, the Lion King, 101 Dalmatians…and the Fox and the Hound!  God, that movie made tear up every time.  Even Balto was alright.  I don’t know which of you slacker Disney-wannabes made it, but for once you kept from failing, and I’ll give you props for that.

I have to tell you, though, you really have to cut all this bullshit with the live-action talking-animal movies.  Beverly Hills Chihuahua?  Cats ‘n’ Dogs?  And I’m going to go ahead and throw in Alvin & The Chipmunks and Underdog too.  I know Michael Eisner probably told you that “CGI is the best thing since cramming a horse’s mouth full of peanut butter,” but you have to remember that he said it right after he greenlighted 112 Dalmatians and right before he suggested Pirates of the Caribbean Four: Captain Jack Allies With Ninja Sailors To Take Back The Flying Dutchman From Horatio Hornblower.

Don’t listen to that Mickey-killing, Goofy-stomping son of a bitch.  America can and will keep shoveling buckets full of money into your pockets as long as you keep feeding us shitty movies to drag howling kids to.  With that in mind, though, is it so much to ask that you shelve the CGI for awhile and make something tolerable?  You can animate animals just as easily in cartoon form, and I hear you can use computers for that too these days.   Kids won’t know the difference, and parents will thank you.

Please, just think about it.

Love,

Dan



Why the U.S. Education System is Failing (and Why I’m an Authority) by indianamcfly
July 21, 2008, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

My brain just exploded.

As an AP student in our awesomely failing compulsory education system, I agree.

I am the student that deserves a C in one class and suprisingly receives an A or a B. Sure, I’m thankful when I do get rewarded with an easy A (though, often it’s not an A awarded, which brings me to my next point). I am the kid who should be in Honors for some of my courses, but instead is forcefully pushed into a realm of education that should be beyond what my personal limitations are, all to avoid being in the cut-up class of Honors students who were pushed into that level of education. In a nutshell, I am a prime example of the failure of the U.S. education system. I am a product of my environment.

The A that I was awarded (or that 5 on an AP exam) may get me into a college – but what for? To be in another institution filled with students who were also pushed into courses in which they were given A’s but should have earned C’s?

This degradation of the public school system may put more kids in college, but only hurts us in the long run – that “long run” being the post-college career. It would not be so detrimental to the U.S. if the education system were slackened (as it has) were it not for one minor problem: The global position of U.S. education. This (pardon the cliche) “real world,” in which economics and business and policy are all counted and measured and judged and pitted against each other play out on the international stage – not the American stage. In this worldwide play, American students are slowly becoming the extras – the ones which people know are there, but everyone except that kid’s parents are too captivated by the leads to notice. Perhaps the most poignant observation (among many) is that College Board should grade teachers.

Here is a prime example of why.

Starting with the class of 2009, the state of Maryland’s Public Education System put in place standardized High School Assessments – tests which all MD students must pass to graduate. Is this fair? Does it ensure that teachers are being held accountable? To put it simply, no. This new, shiny, state government supported, fail-proof, strict measure has already been given elasticity to its intended rigidity: Students did not pass, teachers are not being fired, and not surprising in the least – its being challenged. Parents will not stand for their child, who is enrolled in an advanced Science course, to be told that they did not make the cut.

This intended swift hammer of justice did not strike. Nor will it. Not until school systems stop pushing for the school with the most enrolled AP students, and start pushing for the most students passing the AP exams.

We need to follow a survival of the fittest approach to education, not the “Oh-well-everybody-had-fun-here’s-a-juice-box” t-ball technique that we are using now.



The Glorious Failure of Charter Schools… by indianamcfly
July 21, 2008, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

this is a short paper that I wrote for an argument assignment in my AP Language course back in November(I chose to do mine on charter schools). Just putting it out there:

“They are so common that students have given them names… drawn pictures of them”. These are the words of Ariel Smith, a college student who worked at an after-school program at in a Washington, D.C. public elementary school. The “they” she made reference to was not a local running group, a nest of birds in the school yard, or interesting cars. “They” is a reference to the rats seen running through the cafeteria and kindergarten room. Why, you may ask, has this D.C. public school (and so many like it) been neglected, been allowed to fall through the cracks? While some may say that it is the school principal’s fault, it is actually caused by a relocation of educational funds. Where is the money that could be saving the community’s schools? The answer is obvious: charter schools. Charter schools are public education facilities which have been created for any student who wishes to “escape” the disintegrating public schools. While many may say that this is an excellent idea because it allows students to get away from unproductive learning environments, it is, in reality, causing the existing schools to be further neglected, and in the end, allowing students to become “left behind”.

The District of Columbia has put great faith in charter schools to be the savior of the public school system. The charter schools, once seen as the magic remedy of the ever failing facilities and staff, have themselves failed. This year, a review of all public schools in the District was conducted to determine if they met health and test standards. 30 of the schools failed. Included in the list are charter schools. Although some of the charter schools have seen moderate success, a great number of them have failed to meet educational standards. 26 out of the 30 failing schools are regular public schools; the other 4 are charter schools. Washington charter schools are evaluated every 5 years by a charter committee, as well as an annual review (which the regular schools are subjected to as well) dictated by the No Child Left Behind Act. If it is determined that test scores are too low, they have a two year probationary period to improve them before they are added to an “In Need of Improvement” list. If after those two years the school still fails to raise its scores, the school is eligible for additional monitoring, or to be shut down. It is evident that charter schools are not only failing to be the champion of public school system, but rather they are becoming the nemesis of success, as is obvious in the growing number of schools who after more than two years still cannot raise scores.

Some say that charter schools are a great success because test scores are rising. However, this rise in test scores is found only in the charter schools, which draw the more academically advanced students from the regular public schools, and not throughout the entire District school system. Besides failing to ameliorate the entire District’s failing test scores (three out of four D.C. students fail to meet math standards), charter schools also use vital funds which should be used to rehabilitate the struggling regular public schools. Although in theory charter schools should be met with great success, they are actually money pits which consume large amounts of government funding. The school system fails to be productive with the money granted not because of a fundamental flaw with charter schools, but because of the District’s crumbling infrastructure. Blatant statistics show misuse of funding (and of deep internal issues) in Washington’s school system. The school system ranks third in the nation’s 100 largest school districts in spending, while it ranks last in the classroom and instruction spending category. Charter schools are merely the latest step in a colossal fumbling of grant location; they are the biggest layer that needs to be peeled away, and one that when removed will make the underlying infrastructure problems visible and ready for reform.

The first step in fixing the mounting problems in Washington, D.C. schools is to phase out charter schools and focus on rehabilitating the decrepit facilities which already exist. Once this happens, more qualified teachers will come to teach in the District, and eventually, test scores will rise. But I stress once again, to give incentive to these teachers, it is paramount that we refocus our funds away from money pit projects (such as the $125,000 “production room” at a Washington middle school intended for announcements and television broadcasts, which, after three years still has not been used due to miscommunication between the school board and the principal) and towards the rehabilitation and expansion of regular public schools.

Teachers do not want to work where rats scurry through classrooms, adorned with rusted through lockers, and where they will lack proper funding for classroom instruction. Until these issues are met head on, Washington test scores will fail to improve across the board. While system-wide reconstruction will not be easy, the first (and always hardest) steps are to phase out charter schools and refocus funds.



EMO KIDS THREATEN END OF GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH by tomcreo
July 21, 2008, 11:57 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

Sound probable? Well it is more than you think. And you know what? It’s about time those hair flipping, girls pants wearing scensters get their Vans Slip-On shod feet held to the fire. Who would have thought that it would have come from their choice of cosmetics?

Our little story starts off in September 2007. That month saw the release of a number of albums by emo darlings like Motion City Soundtrack, Rilo Kiley, Iron and Wine, Every Time I Die, The Bled, and Hot Hot Heat. Additionally, the charts were filled with hit emo “rockers” like Simple Plan’s “When I’m Gone”, Fall Out Boy’s “I’m Like a Lawyer…”, BoysLikeGirls’ “Hero/Heroine”, Paramore’s “crushcrushcrush”, and who can forget Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah”. Finally, the number one independent CD of that month was Dashboard Confessional’s “Thick as Thieves”.

At the same time, the L’Oreal Corporation saw the highest gain in stock prices outside of holiday season booms. In one month, the stocks ballooned $10 a share. This drastic gain is usually caused by a spike in demand for the conglomerate’s product. We all know the two things that emo kids love: makeup and skinny guys crying about their fat girlfriends. Usually consuming, per capita, enough eye shadow, mascara and hair dye to make the cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show gasp in astonishment, it can be assumed with roughly one emo kid per every 4 suburban households (or, 1000 per every Hot Topic storefront), that that climb in stock prices could be a reflection of the prosperity of the emo fad. I won’t even begin to talk about the amount of disposable income 14-18 year old suburban white kids have at their availability…

One of the key ingredients in cosmetics like lipstick, mascara, hair dye, hair wax/pomade is beeswax. Most of the world’s beeswax is sourced from Eastern Africa. Since the spike in demand the profit margins for the sale and export of beeswax have skyrocketed. This is reflected by the amount of aid groups that have intervened and under the premise of “creating a market structure” set standard prices (ones above the pre September ’07 levels) in order to increase the standard of living for the producers. This disguised price gouging can be absorbed by the cosmetics corporations, but other enterprises are not as fortunate.

The Greek Orthodox Church mandates that all candles used for religious services must be made from pure beeswax. As I said before, the area of largest export is Eastern Africa. With a standard price raised by non-profit groups like “Honey Care Africa”, the Greek Orthodox Church is facing the ass end of socialized market economies. The price hike is huge when you consider the scale of wax the church must consume regularly. As a non-profit organization, there is not nearly as much room for price fluctuations as there are in private industries. As such, there is a question to be raised about the viability of the church’s use of the wax candles.

So what’s the moral of the story? If you are a member of the Greek Orthodox Church and an emo kid, you are wrong. If you are an emo kid, shame on you. If you are a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, it is your holy obligation to cease the consumption of cosmetics by emo kids by any means necessary.