Category Archives: Uncategorized

Another Look at Tuition Hikes

Let’s start with the basics: the decision to increase tuition is now in the hands of the (popularly elected) California Governor and Legislature. The quicker students and other stakeholders remove pressure from the Regents and concentrate it upon the Governor and Legislature, the quicker we can make progress towards freezing tuition.

Now for background:

Last week, the Regents of the University of California approved a 5% per year increase in tuition, if the state increases funding to the University at 4% per year. If the state raises funding at 7.3% per year, tuition remains frozen. Jerry Brown, in a move that can only be described as a teenage temper tantrum, threatened to “withhold the 4 percent increase if the regents went ahead with raising tuition.”

Since then, a lot of people have said a lot of not very nice things about the Regents, and specifically about UC President Janet Napolitano. An LA Times commentator put it this way:

“Caught in the middle are the UC students who are being held hostage by Napolitano and the UC Board of Regents in their demand for significantly more state money.

“Pay the ransom, UC is telling Sacramento, or we’ll hit the kids with higher tuition.”

While the analysis is correct, we must also remember that Jerry Brown put students in a very similar situation with Prop 30 in 2012. In fact, I would argue that Prop 30 was worse than the Regents’ current gambit. Had Prop 30 failed, funding to the UC system would have gone down, yet Prop 30 passing did not increase funding to the UCs. 

The Regents are trying to get more money into the UC system. We ought to be making it clear to our elected leaders that we want this money and we want it from the state, not from students.

Advertisements

Fiscal Policy 101

Soon Congress will be back in session and will have to appropriate money for our government to continue to function and that is why this simple and straightforward primer on fiscal policy is necessary.

A few weeks ago, President Obama offered a cut in corporate taxes as a concession in order to be able to spend money on a job creation program. And in an editorial on Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, the New York Times stated, “Mr. Abe challenged conventional economic wisdom during winter by using deficit spending and easy money to jolt Japan’s inert economy back to life.” Both of these struck me as humorous. In the case of President Obama, increased spending and tax cuts are two tools with the same aim of increasing demand in the economy. And in the case of Japan, expansionary fiscal and monetary policies in times of a slow economy are anything but unconventional. In fact they are quite conventional.

But instead of looking at fiscal policy like we would in a classroom, let’s look at it in terms of jobs – jobs that every elected official claims to hold paramount. The question then is whether expansionary (increased government spending and decreased taxes) or contractionary (decreased government spending and increased taxes) fiscal policy would create more jobs.

If tomorrow Congress decided to cut government spending, what would be the direct result in terms of jobs? Government employees and contractors would either get paid less or lose their jobs.

On the other hand, if Congress decides to fund new projects, such as increased funding for infrastructure or jobs programs, what would happen to jobs? They’d go up of course. More people would be designing and building roads and bridges. More people would be teaching employable skills.

And if you would like to look at this in terms of debt and deficit, consider that as more people start working, tax revenues will increase while spending on automatic stabilizers such as unemployment benefits will decrease. The road to a balanced budget does not include pulling the rug out from under people in the middle of a slow recovery and further slowing the pace of recovery, but instead involves speeding up the recovery itself. Thus it is imperative that Congress enacts expansionary fiscal policy in order to strengthen, and not hobble, the recovery.

I’m not going to tell you who to vote for, but…

Like the title says, I’m not explicitly going to tell you who to vote for in the presidential election, I’ll just compare the two candidates and have a little bit of fun while doing so. But before I get to that, I’d like to request you to vote in favor of California Proposition 30 (if, of course, you live in California). If it fails, tuition at UC Berkeley (and probably all of the UCs) could go up by up to 20%. Just think how happy parents and students would be if they didn’t have to pay an additional 20%.

Now, on to my favorite sport  this really historic and momentous election. (Yes, I used those words in a slightly humorous fashion. No, that does not diminish the momentous nature of this election.) The following will not be too serious nor will it be too detailed. If you are looking for either serious or detailed, you can click here or here…or read the news. The news seems to be fairly serious. Basically, if you’re voting for President Obama, this post will reinforce most of your reasons for doing so while making you laugh. If you’ll be voting for Governor Romney, perhaps this will make you rethink, if even for a second. If you’re voting for Governor Romney, and live in a swing state, we should talk :P.

Okay, that being said, I’m going to present some comparison between President Obama and Governor Romney on various issues:

Foreign Policy:

Obama: Ended the war in Iraq, plan to end the war in Afghanistan, got OBL, etc.
Romney: “horses and bayonets”, told London it wasn’t prepared for the Olympics, that trip he took overseas, Russia being our number one geopolitical foe, and I’m not sure which map led him to believe that Syria is Iran’s route to the sea. I think this picture sums up his foreign policy quite nicely.

Fiscal Policy:

Obama: You may philosophically disagree with raising taxes on the rich, but you can’t deny that raising revenue will, well, raise revenue. And even if you consider the Laffer curve, there is a stronger argument in favor of raising taxes to raise revenue, than there is for lowering taxes to raise revenue. (On that note, there is an Intelligence Squared debate on raising taxes on the rich that you might want to check out.)
Romney: Maybe it’s because I just got out of math midterm that my math skills are especially sharp today, but there’s something about cutting revenue by $5 trillion and raising spending by at least $2 trillion that just doesn’t scream balanced budget. Fine, I’ll throw in the money saved by defunding Big Bird. Oh wait…that doesn’t make a difference.

Equal pay for equal work:

Obama: Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
Romney: “binders full of women”. I guess this is why Staples did well…other than that, I just don’t even know what to say about this.

Healthcare:

Obama: Obamacare.
Romney: Let’s get rid of Obamacare, and say we’ll keep some of it when we actually won’t.

Oh, and it seems I failed to mention Rep. Paul Ryan’s inability to separate his religion and his public life. If the Right wants to defend the Second Amendment in ridiculous ways, it would be nice if they even paid lip service to the First.

And finally, the 47% thing.

Note: it is fully possible that you can present to me a view from Governor Romney that seems to contradict what I’ve written above. While it is possible that I made a mistake above, it is also possible that I’m quoting a Romney policy from 15 minutes before or after the one you’re mentioning. (On that note…Romnesia or Mittology?)

Anyway, if you made this far down, thanks for reading, and vote tomorrow, Tuesday, November 6, 2012. I’ll leave you with a quote from FDR:

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

Whac-A-Mole, Big Bird and other Serious Things

Back when I used to watch Big Bird on Sesame Street on PBS, I thoroughly enjoyed playing Whac-A-Mole at Chuck E. Cheese. The concept of this small object popping up in random spots in an unpredictable manner was interesting. But one thing that struck me was that the game was about moles appearing in random places…not about lions, or tigers, or bears, or former governors of Massachusetts that are running for President of the United States of America appearing in random places.

Yet over the past few days, the thought of Governor Romney always triggers memories of Whac-A-Mole. It’s nearly impossible to say where on the political spectrum Romney may appear on a given day. One day he may denounce nearly half of America, on another he may denounce the way he denounced nearly half of America, and on another day, he might completely denounce his denouncement of nearly half of America. (See the not so subliminal message that Romney denounced half of America.) One day he may want to kill Obamacare dead, and on another, he may want to keep parts of it.  And fifteen minutes later his campaign might say that he doesn’t actually want to keep parts of it. One day he may characterize Democratic legislators as partners, and on another, not so much.

Romney also seems to have a problem with math. He’s the only person I’ve heard say three out of nearly 30 is half. Or that going from $1.4 trillion in deficit to $1.1 trillion in deficit is doubling the deficit. 

These were the things I was thinking as I saw what looked like Romney’s metamorphosis from a squirming caterpillar to a graceful butterfly on Wednesday evening. A graceful butterfly flying around from position to position on policies. Although, it looked more like an awkward transition to the center after having to appeal to the Tea Party during the primaries.  I was also thinking why President Obama wasn’t calling him out on stuff…as was just about everyone else. Let’s hope that gets fixed for the next debate.

After all this, I wouldn’t be surprised if the drop in unemployment was caused by more and more fact checkers being hired to check what Romney’s saying.

In any case, the following will be a follow up to my previous post about why I’m voting for Obama, and why you should to. (Also, register to vote if you haven’t already.)

  • A Romney plan doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist to cut spending and it doesn’t exist to raise revenue. Unless anyone knows of something other than raising revenue and cutting spending to decrease deficits, the Romney (lack of) plan isn’t going to do anything. The fact that Romney would even mention cutting funding for public broadcasting, something that is one one-hundredth of one percent (or 0.0001 as a decimal) only means that he has no real way of cutting the deficit.
  • In contrast, Obama plans exist. See here as just one example.
  • In conclusion, a vote for Obama is a vote for Big Bird. A friend of mine stated cutting Big Bird is just mean. Not only is it mean, it is also meaningless. Cutting one one-hundredth of one percent is not a solution, it’s simply a pretending you have a solution when if fact you don’t.

My Views on Numerology

I had to write a paper on numerology for AP Chemistry (still trying to figure out why) and I thought I should share it. Please note that for the most part this is not very objective and is totally biased.

From the beginning of time, man has been trying to understand and explain the baffling phenomena of the natural world. From a glance through the pages of history, it is possible to glean that man has some sort of innate desire to know all that surrounds him. And when he cannot possibly figure it out, he often times makes it up. Perhaps it starts off with a little child asking a hard-working parent a question such as, “why does it rain?” Of course the parent does not have time to answer such questions when farming or hunting or gathering must be done. The natural response to such a questions would be “Shh, can’t you see I’m busy.” The determined child must have then persisted with his or her inquiry until finally an angry parent yelled out “IT RAINS WHEN ZEUS IS ANGRY, AND IF YOU DON’T KEEP QUIET AND START WORKING, ZEUS WILL THROW A LIGHTENING BOLT RIGHT AT YOU.” The child then became silent and began to contemplate the implications of Zeus throwing lightning bolts. And thus was born the very scientific discipline of making things up to tell children when they asked annoying questions. I imagine that one fine day an unemployed hooligan aimlessly loitering the highly acclaimed roads of ancient Rome saw this most miraculous thing, that of someone making something up to shut a child up, and realized that he could be making money off of that. So he did the most logical thing at the time, got some fancy looking clothes and set up a booth right outside a bustling city and tried to get people so that he could then lie to their faces in a very profound manner. The craft started off slowly, with things like a glass orb but later, as knowledge of science dawned somewhat on the people, these con artists began to add just enough “science” to make the less intelligent members of society fall under the illusion that the trickery here was actually science. And of course, they all fell for it.

It is perhaps out of this type of an event that the pseudoscience of numerology was born. But from this point on the cynical voice that has been entertaining you thus far will change to a more informative one that functions only to put you into a deep sleep. So grab a blanket and pillow and listen to this most (not) fascinating description of numerology.

Numerology seems to have roots in many different civilizations throughout the world. However, it seems that the Roman Catholic Church was opposed to this practice because it was blasphemous. The Council of Nicaea, which was designed to unite the different early denominations of the Christian faith, actually made it a violation of Roman law to practice numerology (or any other practice opposed by the Church – including but not limited to actual science). Of course, Roman law did not mean very much after about 100 years, because the Roman Empire collapsed under various kinds of stress .

Numerology deals with things like lucky and unlucky numbers. The number 8, for example, is “auspicious” When it comes to an explanation; an interesting mathematical observation is pointed out by author Annemarie Schimmel in her book The Mystery of Numbers. Schimmel points out that the square of every odd number (other than 1), is one more than a multiple of 8. Schimmel then goes into describing and developing certain historical and religious examples regarding the number 8, however the question still exists as to why 8 is “auspicious” per se. Another question that comes to mind is the practical application of such numbers. Under what circumstances will knowledge of the alleged characteristics of certain numbers come handy?

It seems that these numbers come in handy when put together with significant numbers related to yourself, such as your birth date. A combination of sorts with the digits that constitute your birthday will result in something that can give you a rough guide to your life. Such a life number is the sum of the each component of your birthdate (month plus date plus year (four-digit)). This digits in this number are then added together to reduce to a single digit. Often times, a double digit number arises. This double digit number is called a master number, but to find one’s life path they must add the digits once more to obtain a single digit number. According to the calculations for myself, I am a peacemaker and counselor. However, based on historical evidence I would have to disagree with these statements.

In closing however, I would like to bring your attention to one recent episode where numerology was discovered in the contemporary settings, and some of the implications of it. According to a 2006 article in the Washington Post, a woman in Washington DC was kicked off of the jury because she attempted to deliberate upon a murder case by analyzing birthdates, death dates, etc. (5). Another example is very familiar to us, and that is of the Rapture, which was destined to occur last Saturday (May 21, 2011) and now is scheduled to occur on October 21, 2011. The theme here sounds so similar to the hypothetical one I described in the opening paragraph, that it is almost scary.

               

On that note, please always let your rational mind have a say in what you believe and what you don’t.

Class Elections

Yesterday I received a lot of Facebook invites to vote for every other member of my class for whatever officer position. Not surprisingly, every single one of these stated (among very little other things) that the candidate would work towards an awesome prom and project grad.

That’s great. Now what?

How do we take this to the next level? How do we actually do something worthwhile or set a precedent for others in the future to emulate?

Society’s prosaic and vacuous mind set has made us all slaves of tradition. It’s time to explore new spheres in which the student body can act as an agent of positive change.

So what can be done? Well, there are many aspects of the education system that can and should be improved. As history has shown, reform at the federal level usually takes a long time (consider Brown v. Board of Education and how long it took to integrate schools) and/or is extremely counterproductive (consider No Child Left Behind). Thus it is necessary that real change take root at the local level, and the actions (or lack thereof) of school administrators have shown that only students can bring about real progress.

So this is what I propose:

-Identify legitimate issues facing our class such as drop out rate, SAT scores, AP class participation rate, AP testing rate, college attendance rate and crime within student population (including but not limited to drugs and alcohol)

-Set aggressive yet realistic goals for the identified issues (e.g. reduce drop out rate to x%, raise average SAT scores to a certain score)

-Develop and implement an effective and efficient action plan by which to combat the issues and realize the set goals.

This is not to say social events such as prom should not be a focus. Indeed it is important for students to get together and celebrate the end of their high school careers. But it is also important to focus on aspects of the high school journey that will impact our future (in a positive way at least).

In any case, such elections will continue and inevitably at some point in time someone will realize the absurdity in focusing solely on trivial social events. Let’s make that “some point” today.

Entertainment and Societal Ruin

Essay I wrote and will submit tomorrow.

Prompt (from 2003 AP Test):

“In his 1998 book Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, Neal Gabler wrote the following:

           One does not necessarily have to cluck in disapproval to admit that entertainment is all the things its detractors say it is: fun, effortless, sensational, mindless, formulaic, predictable, and subversive. In fact, one might argue that those are the very reasons so many people love it.
           At the same time, it is not hard to see why cultural aristocrats in the nineteenth century and intellectuals in the twentieth hated entertainment and why they predicted, as one typical nineteenth century critic railed, that its eventual effect would be "to overturn all morality, to poison the springs of domestic happiness, to dissolve the ties of our social order, and to involve our country in ruin."

Write a thoughtful and carefully constructed essay in which you use specific evidence to defend, challenge, or qualify the assertion that entertainment has the capacity to "ruin" society.”

My Essay:

Warning to the reader: If you find this essay entertaining in any way, shape or form, please, for the sake of society, discard it at once. If you do not, you may be overturning morality, poisoning “the springs of domestic happiness”, dissolving “the ties of our social order” and involving “our country in ruin”.

In 1998, a man named Neal Gabler wrote of his displeasure with entertainment, characterizing it as “fun, sensational, mindless, formulaic, predictable and subversive”, and ascertained that this entertainment would “‘dissolve the ties of our social order’” and result in societal ruin. What Gabler did not do is define entertainment. Thus Gabler attacks this distant, ambiguous enigma that he labels “entertainment”. In light of this gaping hole in his assertion, it must be said that Neal Gabler, is quite mistaken when he proclaims that entertainment will magically drive society into a fiery abyss of disorder and anarchy; in fact, entertainment has routinely led to the positive progression of society.

In the 1930s a nation stared into a gloomy future amidst even gloomier numbers as giant bread lines circled cities. Industries in the east fell and farms in the Midwest were covered by dust. Homelessness rose and hopelessness rose; dreams came crashing to the ground and the stock market came crashing to the ground. At a time, nearly a quarter of the country was unemployed, and of those that were employed, most worked for governmental programs that paid a very low amount. Farmers lost the land that they had identified with for generations and began to migrate west, to California, where they began to get used for cheap labor. Society had hit rock bottom. There was this one author, though, who saw this. The sight moved his pen. 455 pages later, John Steinbeck had created a novel that cogently packaged together the experience that millions of migrants experienced. Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, explored the fundamental human spirit, the immortal, human spirit that continues, in the face of joy and sorrow, to seek a meaningful life. Like many works of genius, the novel too was criticized and condemned. Of course it was communist, it was proletariat, it would raise mass uprisings, people would rebel against society, we would have lawlessness, and the country would fall into shambles. We were doomed, America was doomed, society was doomed, and humanity was doomed. Or so the critics said. Society had already fallen into a state of despair. There was not much more room to go lower. The book however, instills within the student escaping a teacher’s lecture or the child on the long car ride, the sense of interconnectedness, a sense of community. The novel makes one question taking advantage of another. It instills fundamental values within a person. Is it not a laughable notion that society will be “ruined” because a few more people became a little less selfish and identified a little more with their fellow humans?

Also consider that while aboard a train in South Africa, a young Indian lawyer, kicked out of the first class seat that he had a ticket to, grew bored with the dismal surroundings consisting of the odor of hundreds of people fit into a small space without having experienced the fresh air of the great outdoors for days on end. Among his possessions was a short essay, some eighteen pages long, written in a different time, in a land far, far away. Seeing that his only other form of entertainment would be to stare out through the window into utter darkness, the lawyer reached down into his luggage and grabbed the thin pamphlet. He cringed at the first two sentences, which seemed to him to be an open cry for anarchy but, because he had no other viable option, he drudged through the next words. Slowly, words became sentences; sentences became paragraphs and paragraphs, pages. And with each turning page, it seemed that the hands of time, that were locked in position a few moments prior, began moving with much speed. The lawyer was enraptured, the text spoke to him, it connected to him. In the text he saw a reflection of him, a reflection of the oppressed Black in South Africa and a reflection of the occupied Indian in India. He saw in those pages, a reflection of mankind around the world, tied, bound, constricted by the malicious chains of power, power that respected no morality, but just unjustly pursued more power. The essay he had picked up just to pass a few hours became a cornerstone of his life, and he went on to become the international and timeless epitome of civil rights, Mahatma Gandhi. He protested the tyrannical white rule in South Africa and he secured India from the hands of the despotic British.  Sure, the techniques Gandhi learned in the essay, “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau, may have led Gandhi to “poison the springs of domestic happiness”, “dissolve” some “social ties” and “ruin” a few countries here and there in the short term, but from a long term perspective, can the independence of India, the end of apartheid in South Africa and the guarantee of civil rights to African Americans in the United States really be classified as ruination?

As a final vivid example invalidating Gabler’s preposterous claim, consider the advent of social networking in contemporary times. The largest of these social networks, Facebook, boasts a population of over 500 million and is known to teenagers as the reason their grades are so low. And it is true that these social networks have facilitated in the arrangement of meetings between naïve people who believe every stranger on the Internet is safe, and predators. Nevertheless, these social networks have been very useful sources of the progression of society. Consider the role of Facebook and Twitter in the recent revolution in Egypt. Tired of the ruling President Hosni Mubarak who has been ruling for nearly 30 years, protestors banded together on social networking sites in order to plan a revolution. The government, decided to shut off all Internet connections, however, because of the pressure of the insurrection, Mubarak was forced to create a new government. Sure the state is currently in turmoil, but if this movement can cause the upliftment of that 50% of the Egyptian population that currently lives under $2 a day, wouldn’t this form of entertainment be vindicated?

                Thus, literature, history and current events prove that entertainment is not a cause of societal ruin, but actually a positive force in building it up, and making it better. Gabler’s claim is therefore dumbfounded as common forms of entertainment have proved to society that they are in fact a major force in taking it forward, as evidenced by Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Gandhi’s experiences with “Civil Disobedience” and the current state of events in Egypt.