Sunday, August 29, 2010

Red light camera tickets and the burden of proof

The malleability of the law and its application is apparent in the issuance of red light camera tickets in Chicago. Imagine…it’s a holiday, you’re attending a gathering of family and friends. Someone yells, “we need ice,” and looks out about the drive way to see that your car is the most accessible for making the run. You, unwilling to make the run, think nothing of tossing your keys to the designated runner who scurries on to complete his task. While on the ice run, the runner runs through a traffic light fitted with a red light camera; the car is captured as the driver commits the infraction.

The red light ticket debate

Three weeks later, you receive a red light ticket in the mail, displaying the rear license plate and your vehicle going through a red light; the ticket also states the date and time of the alleged infraction. You question the ticket because you neither live nor work in the area where the infraction occurred. Then, you realize you were not the driver because the infraction occurred during the ice run.

Who is responsible for the ticket?

You confront the family member who made and ice run and committed the infraction; he laughs, “You can’t prove it was me; so, it wasn’t me; therefore, I’m not responsible for the ticket. The court sent the ticket to you, not me.” You point to the picture, trying to tie the accused to the infraction, but all you have is a picture of the rear license plate of your car proceeding through the red light. A bit steamed, you realize that you will have to pay a fine you did not incur for a moving violation you did not commit, which will be reflected on your driving record. Reluctantly, you pay the ticket and suffer the consequences of allowing others to drive your car. However, burden of proof says fight such tickets because their issuance places responsibility on the owner of the car, not the violator.

Flawed application

Now, imagine making the ice run, but you’re riding in the passenger seat of your car; your nephew wants to test drive your new sports car, so you let him. He runs through a red light and is espied by a police officer who pulls the car over. Who gets the ticket? Get the picture?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

When Will We Learn?

Calumet High School was closed and converted into a Charter School, in Chicago Public Schools’ efforts to provide better education designed to leave no child behind. However, Calumet, located on Chicago’s Southside, was the only high school in the neighborhood, serving ten elementary feeder schools. Therefore, several children will be left behind or killed while crossing rival gang territory, in their pursuit of a high school diploma.

Ironically, there was no mass protest by concerned parents or local leaders to block the closure; Oddly, the only protest at Calumet High School (1995) occurred when the school decided to ban the wearing of black and red Air Jordan’s: colors worn by one of the gangs that plague the community.

If nothing else, the poverty level of the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood strongly vetoes closing Calumet. Closure forces community parents to find a school that their children can attend without venturing far from their neighborhood; this requires paying daily bus fare on a shoestring budget. As a result, many students will be forced to miss classes because their parents cannot afford the astronomical bus fare required to transport children to and from school. Calumet was closed, and parents’ of the community are left to fend for themselves in their quest to provide their children with a high school education.

Sadly, parents of high school students in the Auburn Gresham community can only hope that as their children go to and from school that they do not meet the same fate as 16 year old Derrion Albert, who was beaten to death at Fenger High School. Albert, too, was forced out of his community of Altgeld Gardens because Carver High School, the only high school in the community, was closed and reopened as a Charter School. When will we learn?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Are We Moving Toward a Socialist Nation?

Now that we have survived the Presidential election, and we have come to accept the fact that the next President of the United States is of African heritage, it is now time to clear up misinformation that has swirled around this great man during the campaign. During the campaign, President-elect Barack Obama has been called “everything except a child of God.” Ironically, the mud-slinging came from those who claim to be “Christians,” but that is not the issue of this writing. President-elect Obama has been constantly referred to as a “socialist.” Many believe that because of his “liberal” views our future President will turn our “budding” capitalist system into one of socialism. Well, for those who believe that we are headed towards a socialist system, let me put your fears to rest.

It is important for the citizens of America to know and understand our history as a nation. That being said, we have been practicing socialism since former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt developed and implemented the “New Deal.” Roosevelt decided that government intervention was needed to bring the country out of The Great Depression. As a result, Roosevelt initiated various social programs, in addition to industry regulations, to aid suffering Americans. Roosevelt developed Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1935 to assist children in families with low or no income. Another program established under the New Deal was Social Security. Even those who have yet to reach retirement age benefit from Social Security programs today.

In 1965, Medicaid, which provides medical assistance to low or no income families with children and Medicare, which provides medical assistance to those 65 years-of-age and older reared their socialists’ heads, taking hard earned monies from the gainfully employed to assist children and the elderly.

Consequently, socialism has been alive and kicking in these United States for several decades. However, I agree with those who believe we are headed toward a socialist government, only difference is I have been aware of our socialist tendencies for quite some time. Thus, I propose a solution to ease our woes of becoming socialist and return America to its capitalist roots, which we love and miss.

Those of us who believe it is time to stop the move toward a socialist government should take to the streets, write our Congresspersons, and demand an end to the madness. We should demand a move toward a solidified capitalist system. To that end, the following programs must cease immediately after the inauguration on January 20, 2009:

Public assistance: why should hardworking, patriotic Americans contribute the wellbeing of the lazy and unfortunate who have nothing better to do than "be fruitful and multiply?" They had the same opportunities as any other citizen in America, to include birth control and/or abstinence, and should be left to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps instead of leaning on the middleclass for survival.

Medicaid/Medicare: why should those hardworking, patriotic Americans concern ourselves with the health of children of low or no income families? They only our future, but isn't it best to live in the present? Why should be burden ourselves with the health care of the elderly? They have lived their lives, and many of them have lived unhealthy lives. Why must the middleclass be forced to care for individuals who are on their way out of existence due to their inability to abstain from indulging in a poor eating fare, overeating, drinking, smoking, and other equally as harmful practices in their lifetimes? It is ludicrous to say the least. They are the past, and it's time for us to move forward.

Social Security: why should hardworking, patriotic Americans worry with retired workers who failed to plan better for their retirement. Should we be made to supplement the income of the disabled? Aren’t there jobs available for those who suffer myriad maladies? Doesn’t the government give tax breaks to those who employ the handicapped? Lately, there has been a trend towards hiring seniors because of their great work ethics; let's put them back to work. Disabled individuals should get in where they fit in; they should take advantage of the opportunity to work in industries that hire them, opposed to taxing those of us who are already taxed beyond belief.

Unemployment Insurance: why should hardworking, patriotic Americans concern themselves with those who have lost their jobs? Of course, they have paid into the program, and that being said, they should only be allowed to take from the program what they have contributed. People should learn to budget better; saving for a rainy day is something that should be taught in every school and church across America. I can’t think of a damper situation than the loss of income. If people learned to save instead of attempting to keep up with the Joneses, they would find a nice nest egg readily available in case they lose their jobs. Let's bring back the adage of Benjamin Franklin: a penny saved, is a penny earned.

These are just a few of the programs that should come under the axe in our attempts to restore America to its capitalist roots. By alleviating such programs, hardworking, patriotic American's can better enjoy the fruits of their labor. Those of us who work without health care can better afford the health care we need because our income will be void of taxes that support the above socialist programs. Those of us who work can better save for our futures because we would be able to put monies taken out of our checks for Social Security to better use in an individual retirement account.

For sure, alleviating such programs will cause other problems: the homeless rate will rise; children of low or no income families will take to the streets in search of food; they may even resort to robbing, pick-pocketing, and stealing; the crime rate will surely increase, but that's why be built prisons; we must continue to lock criminals up for breaking the laws of this great nation.

I implore those who are against our country moving toward socialism to stand up and demand that such programs end as of January 21, 2009. Our future President has promised that he will listen to the people. It's time for the people to speak up.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Eight-year-old Arrested in the Shooting of his Father and another Man!

While reading the account of the eight-year-old boy in Arizona charged with killing his father and another man, I could not help but think about five-year-old Tre Merrit from Arkansas who killed a 445 lb. Black Bear last December. For sure, some will argue that five-year-old Merrit was merely hunting with his grandfather while the eight-year-old committed premeditated murder. According to news accounts, the town of St. John’s, Arizona is “stunned,” “shocked” by the actions of the eight-year-old. St. John’s Police Chief asked, “Who would think an 8-year-old kid could kill two adults?" I would, and I am neither stunned nor shocked.

Unfortunately, society sends mixed messages when applauding the actions of one child who kills and prosecuting the actions of another. Though we may want to argue that Merrit was hunting, the act was no less premeditated since Merrit and his grandfather sat in a stand and waited for their prey to appear. When the bear was spotted, the grandfather directed the five-year-old to “shoot.” The five-year-old did as directed and was proud of his “accomplishments,” as was his family and the media.

As a result, Merrit and his family made the morning news circuit. During interviews, Merrit’s grandfather bragged about teaching the boy to shoot at the tender age of two. The boy’s father reportedly stated that tears ran down his cheeks when he learned of his son’s accomplishments. He continued by telling of another defenseless animal that his son had killed the year before: three deer. Merrit’s father continued to list the helpless animals his son plans to kill in the future: a turkey and an elk.

Nevertheless, for a child to shoot and kill a bear that was merely passing by in the woods and not attacking him or his loved ones is just as heinous a crime as the crime committed by the eight-year-old in Arkansas. There is no difference unless one considers the differences in the treatment received and the way their behaviors are viewed.

The irony here is thick, and I am stunned and shocked that no one sees the connection between the two acts or a problem with the actions of Merrit. Merrit was paraded by the news media and praised for his fearless killing of a harmless bear. The eight-year-old will be paraded before the courts to explain his actions in the killings of his father and the other man.

According to Psychologists, children who kill animals tend to grow up and commit myriad crimes, to include spousal abuse. Again, some will argue that Merrit was hunting with his grandfather. Maybe the eight-year-old was hunting his father. The bottom line is children should not be allowed to handle firearms at any age.

For a child to shoot and kill a bear that was merely passing by in the woods and not attacking him or his loved ones is just as heinous as the crime committed by the eight-year-old in Arkansas. There is no difference. However, there are exceptions to the treatment each has received and the way their actions are viewed. (Let us pray that Merrit's Turkey is not of Turkish decent and the Elk is not a member of the Elk’s Club).

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Waste of Time

Now that the 2008 Summer Olympics are over, I cannot help but reflect on what it actually takes to be an Olympic contender. For sure, one must train in his/her respective sporting event and compete with others for a spot on the team, but what does such training entail? I watched in amazement as Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in Beijing, surpassing Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals won in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. I am sure that both Phelps and Spitz made swimming their top priority, putting in endless hours of practice in their quest to be the best in the world of swimming. Phelps and Spitz proved that they were the best swimmers by competing with and defeating others from around the globe in Olympic competition. Imagine how the glory of Phelps and/or Spitz would have been derailed had they come in 18th during the Olympic trials or last in their respective events… Would they have won any medals, the least of all gold? Would they have graced the covers of the numerous magazines on which they have appeared?


As Americans, we laud ourselves as being the best of the best. We are the number one world power. We have the greatest system of government, the greatest military known to man. We boast a heterogeneous society, unmatched by any other nation. We provide our children with the best we have to offer, and we see them as the brightest and the best in the world. In actuality, it can be said that Americans view themselves as the elite of the world, better than any other nation on the planet: "the land of the free and the home of the brave." Unfortunately, according to a study done by UNICEF in 2005, the United States ranks 18 out of 24 among other nations. Imagine if education were an Olympic event… The United States would not be able to compete in the Olympics, let alone win a medal. This may come as a surprise to some, but for college administrators, it is a sad known fact.


Today, many colleges and universities find themselves having to offer developmental English and Math courses because students are entering college without the basic skills required to succeed and/or compete on a collegiate level. Some colleges have been forced to add to their curriculum "success strategies" courses in efforts to teach students the skills necessary to succeed in college. However, such courses do nothing to address the real reason students do not succeed in college. At the risk of offending some, the reason students do not succeed in college is that, unlike Phelps and Spitz, school is not their top priority.


I have seen countless students enter college classrooms without books, pen, and paper. Students treat their syllabi as though it is a rabid dog: rarely do any of them read it. To add insult to injury, most enter the classroom without having read the required reading, which makes discussing the assignment impossible. Students expect their instructor to tell them everything they need to know to pass the class successfully, yet they sit in their seats as though education is a spectator sport, rarely, if ever, asking questions. They think research can be done by merely surfing the Internet for information. They have no idea how to get around in a physical library, and some have no idea where the local library is in their communities. Attendance at the school's library is virtually nil until the end of the semester when papers are due. Then, there is a mad rush to research, draft, write, edit, revise, and proofread a paper to submit for grading. For sure, this process does not work, especially when one is working with a deficit, but it is widely practiced, and those who practice it expect great results.


As an educator, I can tell you that I have heard every excuse known to man as why students come to class unprepared. Students today rarely, if ever, submit assignments on time and are quick to miss an exam due to some unforeseen emergency, such as the celebration of their birthdays or the illness of their pets. Yet, students who exhibit such blatant disregard for their education believe they are entitled to an "A" or a "B." If they should fail to receive the grade they so desire, they instantly and emphatically complain to the dean about the instructor, as though it is the instructor's fault that they turned in inadequate work for assessing the grade they eventually earned. What is frightening is at times the dean sides with the student, not because the student is right but because today's student is viewed as a customer. What is funny is that even if they are customers they cannot see that such behavior in school not only wastes their time but their money, as well.


What do these actions say about education in America? Well, military recruiters can tell you better than anyone can the impact of our failure to address, in a serious manner, our failed education system. Consistently, military groups have had to lower the required minimum scores on the ASVAB test in order to find "qualified" individuals to enter the military. It is the equivalent of lowering the qualifying time for competing on the Olympic swim team in order to find those qualified to send to the Olympics.


College, at one time, was a proving ground, a place where one goes to exchange ideas and develop new ones. College used to be a place where one could freely voice his/her substantiated opinion and exercise critical thinking skills. College was once a place where one either sank or swam, and it was his/her responsibility to do whatever it took to grasp the concepts presented in class, to include reading the required text. Of course, there were, and continues to be, resources available to students who struggled with certain courses, but today's student has little time to seek out such resources. Their time is divided among friends, family, and work. Interestingly enough, today's students believe they are the only generation who has ever had to deal with such issues while attending school, and for this they should receive some form of sympathy. Grades should be based upon their efforts, not the results they produce.


Ask Phelps what he would have gotten had he put forth the half-hearted effort in his swimming that many students put into their course work… I am sure we would have never heard of him had he, but because he gave his all, Phelps emerged as a gold medal winner, breaking many of Spitz's long held records. If students do not begin to take their education seriously, I fear, we as Americans, will be sent home, left out of gold medal and global completion.

Friday, September 5, 2008

ENOUGH!

I have enjoyed the political campaign of 2008. From the debates waged during the primaries by both Democrats and Republicans, I sat perched on the end of my seat, waiting for what was to come next. I watched the coverage of each candidate, listened to the political pundits as they spewed their respective objective or subjective views, read every piece of literature written by political analysts and bloggers in regards to the pros and cons of Senators Barack Obama and John McCain. I prayed that Obama would choose Sen. Joseph Biden and held my breath at the thought of whom McCain would choose. I knew McCain would choose someone who would help him top the performance of the Democrats at their convention, but never did I ever think he would choose Gov. Sarah Palin. Like many others, I thought he would choose someone who most of us were familiar with, but I also thought he would choose someone whom he was familiar with, but such was not the case. Instead of the old, familiar group of Republicans, McCain came out of left field and chose Palin.

Palin is the mother of five who served as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska and is now serving as the governor of Alaska, a position she has held for less than two years. Why did McCain choose her? Well, that depends on whom you ask. If one listens to the Republican viewpoint, one will hear a bunch of adjectives and adverbs, nothing of substance, to explain not only why McCain chose her but also why she is qualified to become the next Vice President, and possibly President, of the United States. Therefore, to discover more about the woman who has “graced” the Republican ticket, I visited the following websites: http://gov.state.ak.us/bio.html and http://www.ontheissues.org/Sarah_Palin.htm. I must admit, her gubernatorial website is nothing compared to that of Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia or Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, but I guess nothing much goes on in the state of Alaska.

As I researched Palin, I discovered that she fought to have certain books banned from the library. This puzzled me, as she has been touted as “an intelligent woman.” I could not help but think, “Why would an 'intelligent' being want books banned? Isn’t education about the exchange of ideas?” When I ran across a list of books that Palin wanted banned, I was struck dumb:

· Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
· Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
· Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes
· Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
· I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
· James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
· Lord of the Flies by William Golding
· My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara
· Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
· The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
· The Color Purple by Alice Walker
· The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
· The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
· To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
· Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
· Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary by the Merriam-Webster

These are just a few of the books that Palin found offensive. For sure, there are high school students, as well as some college students, who would love to see the absence of Chaucer and Shakespeare in academia. In addition, there are many who espouse the notion that Mark Twain’s work is racist, which I guess would be the reason why Palin opposes “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, as well, even though such views are unfounded and clearly show a lack of critical thinking skills.

However, I cannot imagine what Palin could find offensive about books such as Roald’s, “James and the Giant Peach,” Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, or “Flowers for Algernon” a book (one would think Palin would embrace given her family situation) about a mentally challenged man who was restored to full mental capacity through a series of experiments. Unfortunately, the character reverted to his original self, but it was worth it, at least to me, that he was able to experience some normalcy, even if the experience was brief. The underlying question remains, “What is offensive about the books on the list?”

I viewed her acceptance speech on Wednesday night, with much objectivity. What else could one do to get a sense of who Palin is when she has been unreachable and untouchable since her appearance with McCain on August 29th when he announced her selection as his running mate? I found her speech rather puzzling though. My favorite line was, “You know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.” I was left wondering, which of the two wears the lipstick. I have seen “hockey moms,” but I have yet to see any in lipstick, at least not at the hockey games I have attended.

I listened as Palin introduced her family, provided scant information about her accomplishments, degraded Obama and Biden while praising McCain, and negated discussing any real issues faced by American citizens. This was all fine and dandy, considering she did not write the speech herself. Then, she did the ultimate; Palin offended every grass-root community organizer in the country with, “Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown…let me explain…what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”

This woman is crazy. The American Revolution was encouraged and fought by community organizers. Working class Americans earned the eight-hour workday because of the efforts of community organizers. Women gained the right to vote because of the relentless battle of community organizers. How dare Palin belittle the work done by women such as Susan B. Anthony, Carrie Nation, Jane Addams, Ada S. McKinley, and Gloria Steinem, just to name a few. These women, these community organizers Palin has such distaste for made it possible for her to serve as governor of Alaska and to be considered for the office of Vice President.

If it were not for community organizers, there would be no Red Cross, no Salvation Army, on Peace Corps, no AmeriCorps, no Habitat for Humanity…the list goes on। Maybe Palin has something against those who reach out to the broken and downtrodden in efforts to help them improve their quality of life. Maybe she believes she is above those who find themselves in a hopeless state at some point in their lives. Whatever the case may be, in the words of Obama, during his acceptance speech, “ENOUGH!” I am tired of being insulted by both McCain and Palin.

For McCain to think that women would vote for a woman for the mere fact that she is a woman shows lack of critical thinking skills on his behalf. The fact that Palin allows herself to be used by the very “good ole boy” crew she says she has fought as mayor and governor is unfortunate, to say the least. Let us face facts, if Sarah Palin were Joe Palin, McCain would not have considered him (her) twice, for the same reasons Karl Rove believed that Tim Kaine was not a good running mate for the Democratic party. Intelligent women would not allow themselves to be used in such a blatant fashion.

The McCain/Palin ticket may have the pizzazz that the Republican party needs and desires, but it has nothing to offer Americans who are for better education, better living wages, better health care, better regulation of businesses, and a better America.