Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Facebook Poll

Very recently, a third party facebook poll popped up asking if president Obama deserved to be killed. The answers possible were Yes, No, Maybe, and Yes If He Cuts My Health Care.

Obviously, this poll is just another poll written by someone who both dislikes and misunderstands (or wants others to misunderstand) Obama's health care plan, likely written as a response to other polls on facebook that may argue a different way (in a much more extreme way). Because of its somewhat inappropriate implications, facebook removed the poll as soon as it was notified. Additionally, the user who created the poll was suspended from the web site.

Personally, I don't find this sort of web offense that serious, as I've seen way too many absurd goings-on on the internet to consider this significant.However, what interested me is that the US Secret Service is getting involved in researching the origin of the poll, in order to make sure there is no threat to the president's life.

What I think is strange about putting resources towards investigating a facebook poll is that there is a lot of anti-Obama media that makes similar harsh claims about the president's policies. Because of peoples' increased worry of what changes might come with Obama's presidency, and media misinformation, a bit of panic is understandable among some groups people.

At some Obama protests, there have been some incidents where some individuals protesting have signs with equally ludicrous or desperate claims or charges about the president, but typically these sorts of things are not looked in to specifically because they are understandable occurrences or perhaps thought of as unimportant.

Overall, the news story made me wonder, why is this expression of an idea treated differently for being on the internet? Does it being on the internet make it more potentially threatening? Should it be treated as seriously as an inflammatory poster or slogan, or does something about it make it more serious?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

DNA and Violence

Relatively recently, there have been discoveries of substantial genetic links to violent behavior in men with a specific recessive gene, which manifests itself in gang membership, carry/use of a weapon, and aggressive reactions to provocation.

Scientists studying the gene have concluded that those with the variation of the gene are twice as likely to use a weapon in a fight or join a gang, and gangmembers with the gene are strongly correlated with being high-rank, violent members of a gang, with gangmembers with the gene being four times more likely to use a weapon in a fight than other gang members.

Although there is definitely no idea of genetic determinism for peoples' futures being proposed by the scientists, but some of the ways that peoples' bodies react chemically to outside stimuli is somewhat determined. Like anything else, violence is a combination of environmental and biological factors.

If scientists were to ever determine a violent criminal to have a lot of his/her actions very largely a result of genetic predisposition to being more impulsive, do you think they should be treated differently from other criminals?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Peace Talks in Middle East

Ever since Israel's creation, there has been lots of controversy about what land agreements should be concrete in that region in terms of what borders are followed, what settlements are allowed to exist, how much Israel is allowed to control surrounding territories (with the wall, checkpoints, etc), and whose capitol is Jerusalem.

America, being the country that largely influenced its creation, is still a very strong ally to Israel today. America has often spoken of helping end the conflict through peace talks and negotiation.
However, despite our strong stance, support of Israel, and talks of peace over the years, America's role in helping Israelis and Palestinians negotiate peace really hasn't led to much progress. When representatives of the United States have visited the region, not many concrete changes have been established because the various sides of the conflict have very strong views, many of which cannot be solved by a simple compromise, and the US perhaps has not wanted to spend the time and energy focusing on the regions problems that would be needed to bring about change.

President Bush, for example, didn't talk very much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict until the final years of his presidency. In April 2008 he said that he hoped his plans for peace process would be successful by the end of his term in office.

Since then, the same problems and controversies still pervade the conflict, and Israel recently began building/funding more settlements in the West Bank, despite strong US disapproval and the counter-productive effect it will have on the peace process, which in many ways requires a stop to settlement growth in order to ensure the sovereignty of both Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Despite the obstacles, President Obama has planned to hold peace negotiations this Tuesday in the middle east, relatively early in his term. Obama has shown in his other pursuits such as health care that he aims to make progress on issues that have long been avoided. Many do not have high expectations, however. Do you think Obama has a chance of reaching any sort of solution through negotiations and critique, or will he fall short without putting in the commitment and time needed?

Some have criticized Obama of being anti-Israel for having criticism for some of Israel's policies. But considering the animosity that the US's alliance with Israel has created in the middle east, and with so many people living in Israel and Palestine wanting peace, is the US obligated to help solve this conflict, or should we stay out of it? Is there a need to go a step further than peace talks and bring about some change, such as put economic pressure on Israel?

More importantly, are the different sides of this conflict capable of reconciling when their opinions are based on such different histories, or is an outside agent needed for the change?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Moralizing in Education

One of my favorite educational posters regarding drug use reads as follows:

Don't do heroin.
If you do heroin, don't share needles.
If you're going to share needles, (instructions on how to clean needles between each person's use).

In some school districts, education topics such as drug prevention and sex education have a lot of controversy surrounding what facts teenagers should know, and what they shouldn't. Somehow, there is this idea for some that the more you hide from a teenager, the less they'll have to actually confront in their social lives. This idea is illustrated with the idea that if comprehensive sex education is taught, teenagers will be more likely to have sex and contract STDs and get pregnant.

But in reality, beating kids over the head with the idealistic and patronizing message of abstinence only education just deprives teens of tools that will help them when they are confronted with very frequently-made and real decisions about having sex, doing drugs, etc.

Sex education has become more comprehensive over the past 50 or so years, according to this study of sex ed from 2006, there apparently was a decrease in comprehensive sex education over the past 10 or so years. Why would we be allowing this to happen?

One fact I find particularly interesting is this tidbit:

"More than nine in 10 teachers believe that students should be taught about contraception, but one in four are prohibited from doing so."

If educators want to teach youth this type of useful information, I don't understand why schools should have to yield to the wishes of authoritative parents or other figures that pretend to know what's best. How can we hold on to our moral convictions instead of what the facts show us, when teaching from a strictly moral standpoint leads to actually increase the dangers teenagers face?