Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Death Penalty Must Stop

Texas conducts the most execution in the nation. Some argue that death penalty gives closure to the victims’ families who suffered tremendously, is a negative re-enforcement for crime, is a form of justice, serves as a deterrent who are already serving a life sentence, prevents the danger of potential escape, and prevents overpopulation in the prison system. While these arguments are valid and logical, there are several reasons for Texas to consider abolishing the death penalty: The cost of execution, the rising number of wrongly-convicted innocent citizens, and moral issues.

Firstly, a recent article announced that Texas had to implement the change in its lethal injection protocol, and use a single drug because the supply for one of the drugs used in lethal injection had expired. Texas. The cost of death penalty is continuously soaring.

According to a recent announcement, at least 100 people had been exonerated from death row since 1973 to 2002. There is a saying, “it is better to let a thousand guilty men go free than imprison one innocent man.” This is especially the case for death penalty. Even the slightest chance of an innocent person being put to death should convince us that the idea is morally wrong. The number of people wrongly convicted is the number of reasons to turn away from capital punishment. Also, giving death penalty to a murderer to show killing is wrong is very much ironic. It would only engrave the idea of “eye-to-eye” revenge mentality to the society. Also, it would not bring the victim back to life.

Some may argue that the overpopulation in the prison system can be a big problem. However, if the prisoners can bring in enough revenue, or reduce costs, the state can build more prison, and there would be no problem. The state should utilize the potential work force in the prison. Most of the prisoners are capable of labor, and many would be more than happy to work if there is some sort of reward. The state is facing the budget shortfall, and the prisoners could probably contribute to public construction or the city maintenance by picking up trash. There are many ways in which the state can be creative to utilize the unused work force. According to an article, In Brazil, the prisoners can reduce sentence by contributing to the society. For every sixteen hours put in on a set of special bicycles, one day is reduced. The bikes charge the batteries. The batteries are brought to the city center to power street lights. The state can easily make good use of the work force in the prison.

There are more valid reasons for the death penalty practice to stop than there are for it to continue. As mentioned, the state would prevent any innocent citizens from being convicted, and potentially raise revenue or reduce cost. The death penalty should stop.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Not the Most Efficient Method...

        A Commentary made by Seth Arteaga on July 27th, 2012 focuses on the proposal of drug testing for the recipients of the welfare. The author stated, “The idea of giving someone else's hard earned tax dollars to someone who doesn't have a job is bad enough, but to think they could go spend that money on drugs is even worse.” The author seems to firmly believe that not all welfare recipients deserve to receive the aid. He wishes to “weed out” the ones who are likely to use the money on drugs. He believes the screening is not very costly. He provides a quote from a credible political figure, Jack Kingston, in order to enhance his argument. He also provides a link, from which he gathered numerical statistics on welfare, in order for the readers to receive more information. His Overall, his argument seems a bit weak. He does not elaborate on his argument, and does not provide additional reasons for his argument.

         While a reader may be convinced by his commentary, if one does more research, he/she will find that his argument is not very credible. Some extra research showed sources that challenged his argument. According to an article, Californian employers and Insurance companies paid nearly $100 million for drug tests in 2011, and the cost is expected to approach $150 million this year. Drug testing is already expensive, but the problem is that the drug testing cost is rising significantly every year.

          I do agree with him in that it might just be a waste of money to give a drug-user to continue using drugs instead of using the money for a new start. However, it would be too costly for the state to require drug-testing on every recipients of welfare. Besides, there are many ways to avoid getting caught by the testing by using “detox” medicine, or even simply drinking a lot of water. I believe the state should explore other options to distinguish the drug-users from the deserved recipients. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Investment or Extravagance?

A Commentary made by Tom on July 26, 2012 focuses on the rail system in Austin Texas. He starts the paper by mentioning the environmental issues, the main point of public transportation, and the bus system that is relatively successful. He compares the bus system to the rail system in order to emphasize the ineffectiveness of the rail system. He states that the rail system is not very well-known, and it is not being used widely, therefore bringing in small amount of money. He also states that it would cost enormous amount of money for the rail system to expand. He provides statistics to substantiate his viewpoint, and effectively show the "unseen" problem in Austin Texas.

While he did not provide a solution to the problem, I agree with him in that the rail system is, indeed, ineffective. It is true that the current rail system is too small and inefficient for the general public to use. As Tom has mentioned, it consists of a total of nine stations. With only nine stations, there is no surprise in that there are 1800 riders per day on average. Also, the city does a terrible job in informing and encouraging the public to use the system. I've lived in Austin, TX for about a year now, and I have never heard of the rail system. If people do not know about the system, no matter how good and efficient it is, no one can use it. In order for the rail system to survive, the city must inform the public, and enhance the system.

However, one must be prudent when considering expanding the rail system. The 100 million dollars that has been spent is a "sunk cost," or retrospective costs that have already been incurred; there is no way of returning it. The state should only think about what we can do best now. If the rail system is a dead idea, we must abandon it. But if there is good potential in the system, it might be worth it to invest more money for it to possibly flourish. After weighting the costs and benefits, the state should make a prudent decision.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Top 10 Percent or Top 90 Percent In Reality?

The Texas legislature passed a bill in 1997. The bill requires every public college and university in Texas to admit automatically any student who has graduated in either of the two preceding years with the grade-point average(GPA) in the top 10% of the student's graduating class.

Each district has different economic circumstances, and therefore, various teachers with various programs. Some poor schools cannot even afford to employ the Advanced Placement(AP) classes let alone the International Baccalaureate(IB) program. The AP classes are supposedly "college-level" classes and are much harder than regular classes. From my experience, the classes in the IB program are even harder than the AP classes. Unfortunately, not many students in Texas have the opportunity to take challenging classes like the mentioned ones. Additionally, the quality of the teachers vary from region to region. Rich schools generally have better teachers who come from better educational backgrounds.

The overall intelligence of students in poor schools are limited by their lack of resources and quality education. In contrast, students who enroll in schools with quality teachers and programs are more likely to succeed in college. For this reason, a student who might barely make the top 15 percent in Westlake High School, ranked number five out of 1,721 public schools in the state, would probably be in the top 1 or 2 percent in schools in unfortunate economic circumstances.

I graduated in the top 5 percent of the graduating class; I had a 3.9 un-weighted GPA, 4.3 weighted GPA, and a Scholastic Assesment Test(SAT) score of a 2180. Out of the seven valedictorians I had met throughout my freshman year at the University of Texas at Austin, only one had a higher SAT score than mine, and only one finished his college freshman year with a higher GPA than mine. Two of the seven valedictorians finished with less than a 3.0 GPA. The unfair Texas law fails to allocate the students to universities based on their capacity and intelligence. 

Texas should annul this unfair law and replace it with a state-wide test instead. All students should be graded with the same test and with the same difficulty. Although the SAT scores do not necessarily prove one's intelligence, It does a better job than the top 10 percent law. Because the existing system groups some intelligent students with the "not-so-smart students", the latter fails to make good grades when competing against the smart students. Most of the time, the GPA one makes is more important than the name of the college, especially when applying to a graduate school. It would be better for the "not-so-smart" students to go to a less competitive school, make better GPA, and become more stable and successful than to go to a more challenging school, make terrible GPA, and struggle to find jobs or colleges that will accept them. While it is one's responsibility to know his/her limits and choose the right college for himself/herself, when one is given a chance to enroll in a renown university, it is usually hard to resist the temptation and make logical decisions. Texas should provide the right guideline and limits so the students can go to a university of his/her level, and become more successful. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is It Worth It?

The article, Teacher raises to come from wishful thinking, was probably written by the Editorial Board because it is “unsigned.” It is posted on Star-Telegram and was published on July 16th, 2012. The author discusses the issue on paying the public schoolteachers more for their work and effort. Several weeks ago, Fort Worth district leaders insinuated that teacher raises isn’t an option with current budget. The trustees voted against this idea as well. However, the administrators requested a one-time one percent raise for all full-time employees. Then, the author lists the possible sources of funds and grants suggested by credible political figures. The author provided numerous quotes by political figures and statistics in order to increase the credibility in his writing. The author believes it is not the right thing for the state to use that much money on a one-percent raise in economical hardship. Overall, his/her writing has credibility, and although his/her opinion leans to one side, the tone is formal.


I agree with him completely in that the state should try to save as much money as possible in economically hard times. The state has more important issues to invest the five million dollars on. Some of the suggestions Hank Johnson, the Deputy Superintendent of Finance, made were to spend 300,000 dollars less on substitute teachers and 200,000 dollars less on overtime, according to the author. This is unreasonable. The state should not punish the substitute teachers and overtime workers to reward full-time teachers; the latter have steady income while the substitute teachers usually do not. Other suggestions do not sound very convincing either; most of the suggestions produce victims. Giving a one-time one-percent raise is insignificant, and is simply a sign of appreciation. The state does not have to spend 5 million dollars just to show appreciation. Doing so would cause many agitated citizens. If this really is an important matter, the state should find ways to achieve the goal with less cost. In this “one of the toughest financial situations we’ve been in,” we need to save every penny we can, and use it wisely.

David Song

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Editorial About Obesity

An anonymous author wrote an editorial, “Hays students’ weight triggers alarm,” on Austin American Statesman about youth obesity on May 29th, 2012. The author emphasizes the danger of obesity, and insinuates that losing weight is not an option anymore. According to the author, thirty-nine percent of the third to twelve grade students are overweight in Hays County, and the Texas businesses spend approximately 42.5 billion dollars on obesity in total. The number of obese people continues to rise as the obesity-related expenses skyrockets, and a study estimates the adult obesity rate to triple by 2040. The author states that reducing obesity will require the government to put in considerable amount of effort and money.

The author wrote this editorial in order to increase public awareness of obesity; this is exactly what the government should do. The author provides numerous statistics from reliable sources to increase his/her credibility.  While the name is not mentioned, the author succeeds in writing a credible paper. In addition, the evidence and the statistics the author provides to support his/her claim flows well with the logic behind it.

I could not agree with the author more. Obesity is not only dangerous to one’s health, but it is also dangerous to the government, the economy, and the society as a whole. The obesity rate in Hays County seems a bit more extreme than other Texas states, but in general, Texas is also FAT. Texas has ranked number seven in child obesity, and twelfth in overall obesity ranking. As the author suggested, I believe the government should put in more effort to reduce obesity. The government could increase public awareness by using more ads and enforcing restrictions on cafeteria food for public schools. Obesity comes from unhealthy diet; usually, poor people tend to become obese more easily. Also, unhealthy eating is a habit. From childhood, it is important to develop a healthy habit for eating. The government should start with children obesity. In conclusion, the author has effectively showed how the obesity is rising rapidly, and will eventually be one of the most prominent problems in terms of economy, and health care. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Meeting Half Way (Blog Stage Two)

Today, July 17th, 2012, I came across an Article concerning the case where the Democrats gave in on budget cuts in order to compromise with the Republicans. There is a big difference in how much the two different parties are willing to spend. Because there is the tension between the two parties, the government is only a few steps away from “halting at a standstill.”
This article is interesting because the source of the article is considered liberal. The point I am trying to emphasize is the tension between the two parties, not the incident described in the article. The article is written by a biased Democrat in favor of the Democrats. The article emphasizes how much the Democrats are sacrificing and letting the Republicans have their way in order to prevent the government from shutting down. This makes the liberals look good while making the republicans look stubborn. In reality, the republicans might also have sacrificed to an extent, but this article does not mention any. This phenomenon also prevails in articles that favor the Republicans. Democrats will continue to belittle the conservatives and will try to keep the liberals. The political war never stops.