Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Response to "85 MPH is plenty safe."

I recently read an article posted by my colleague, Thomas Brown, on his blog regarding the Texas speed limits through out the state. He suggests that Texas should raise the speed limit to 85 for the rural highways stretched across our borders. Although I agree with his article for the most part, there are some serious implications that can be avoided by driving at a slower speed limit. Here is my response to his article that I posted as a comment on his blog:

"Like most young adults, I suffer from an extremely reckless and fiscally irresponsible case of lead foot. I agree with you, it's extremely difficult to abide by the state controlled speed limits especially when enduring a long drive across the Texas border. Coming from a girl that drives 12 hours twice a year to visit relatives in Florida, I can't imagine actually going the speed limit the entire duration of the drive. I read an article once that by raising the speed limit, it creates more aware and cautious drivers. Increasing your speed also increases the amount of attention you pay to your driving, drivers surrounding you, and your environment. However, a big argument against raising the speed limit is that when you are driving 70+ miles per hour, you lose a large portion of control from avoiding implications. When you are driving faster than 70 mph, controlling your vehicle after blowing out a tire or avoiding an accident, especially when it's raining, becomes a much harder task to accomplish safely. 


Friday, August 10, 2012

A Hopeful Future, Weeding Out Old-Fashioned Stigmas

Texas Democrats recently released their party's platform for 2012. Their platform included a better focus on education, strengthening small businesses, improving wages and working conditions, and decriminalizing the use of marijuana. This last part is especially interesting to me. In 1994, a poll was taken to determine Texans' attitude of what they thought was the most important issue to address concerning the state. The second most substantial issue that Texans in 1994 were fretting about was drugs, the illegal use of controlled substances, totaling 17% of the Texas population. The same poll was taken in 2000, and drugs only totaled up to 8% of Texans' worries. Now, in 2012, an entire party campaigning for upcoming elections advocates for the decriminalization of marijuana and over 50% of the American population believes marijuana should be decriminalized. I am in agreement with the Democratic party for this particular issue. By decriminalizing the use of marijuana, it'll allow law enforcement to use their time more efficiently for the greater good for more heinous crimes. Also, by decriminalizing marijuana, that'll address the issue of the drug cartels reigning from Mexico and creating catastrophic corruption while crossing into our borders just for money, power, and ensuring a supply and demand for Americans' marijuana desires. If we decriminalize it, it may prevent some violence occurring between the United States and Mexico from the drug cartels. Since the War on Drugs began, citizens of the United States pay $12 billion annually just for criminalizing marijuana. Also, 85% of the arrests regarding marijuana have just been for possession, alone. The Democrats state, "There is no evidence that marijuana is a 'gateway' drug leading to the use of more lethal drugs." Of the population arrested for marijuana, 75% is under the age of 30. Which means, a good majority of those arrested for the use of marijuana is being convicted at a young age and will never overcome this major setback once they are released and need to face the outside world and find a job. That conviction will remain on that individual's record from their youth and will damage their integrity, worth, and self-respect when attempting to find a prestigious and well-respected job. Although, Texas will probably be the last state to instill this Democratic reform to its policy due to its predominantly Republican and conservative perspective of any drug, the fact that Democratic Texans are advocating for this unique and controversial policy reform is astounding and gives me hope. Our prisons are already overcrowded enough, it's time to lighten the inmate list by releasing those that are convicted of charges related to marijuana. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Response to: "Southern drought, Texas consequences."

A colleague of mine wrote an article for their blog, "Looking for the Center in Central Texas". I responded to their article:

        It's interesting you raise this point. The Commissioner of the General Land Office in Texas, Jerry E. Patterson actually visited my UT Class during the fall semester and spoke of his project. He was investigating a piece of land that housed water beneath its surface. In order to obtain the land and disperse it among all of Texas, it'd cost Texas a pretty penny, however, the water supply is not only plentiful but also replenishes itself. The problem with telling Texans to "converse water" is that many take pride in their lawn. As we grow older, our reputation and pride in our local neighborhood is based on how well manicured our lawn is. Since I grew up in a retirement area in Georgetown, TX, I can say from experience that elderly people have no future plans of giving up on their morning rituals of watering their plants and ensuring every blade of grass is proportional in size. Also, during this summer's water conservation efforts, many Texans living within the greater Austin area were bending the rules and watering their plants while their neighbors could not because they hired a company to drill a well and tap into the St. Edward's Aquifer, allowing them to use the Aquifer's water supply to simply ensure they have green and heathy plants. It's hard to strip a Texas resident's individualistic desires to have a well manicured lawn. In fact, some can't even handle that restriction, they'll bend the rules so that they can get ahead of their neighbors for "best lawn in the neighborhood."

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Redeeming Kids Who Commit Heinous Crimes

On June 25th, 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-to-4 decision that laws requiring children under the age of 18 convicted of murder to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole violated the 8th amendment regarding "cruel and unusual punishment". The ruling was decided upon two precedents: Kuntrell Jackson and Evan Miller. Kuntrell Jackson was only 14 when he and two other older boys attempted to rob an Arkansas video store in 1999 and one of the youths killed a store clerk at the video store. Evan Miller, who I mentioned in an earlier post, beat up a 52 year old neighbor, and subsequently set his neighbor's house on fire with the neighbor still inside. The neighbor died of smoke inhalation.

In 2009, statistics showed that 1,906,600 juveniles were arrested for the year. Of those juveniles, 85,890 of them were convicted from "violent crimes" including forcible rape, murder, non negligent manslaughter, robbery, and aggravated assault. Of these crimes, a large percentage of the convicted criminals will receive a hefty sentence, such as life imprisonment or the death penalty. But, if a criminal is lucky enough to be under the age of 18 when he or she commits a heinous crime, the convicted crime  will see the sun shine outside from outside the confinement of a jail cell. A simple wag of the finger by the government and a probation period to ensure "they learned their lesson" and that murderer/rapist/felon will live amongst our children, grandchildren, and their friends and family. What does this ruling mean for the future of Texans? It means that people like Dylan Klebold, a 17 year old boy who was one of the perpetrators of the Columbine high school shooting massacre, and Jeffrey Weise, the 16 year old gunman of the Red Lake massacre, will never be faced with the sentencing of life imprisonment. The Supreme Court justices theorized that juveniles brains are too different from adults to be dealt the same consequences. They say a juvenile's brain is underdeveloped and is incapable to rational understanding. A juvenile commits reckless, impulsive, and rash behavior without fully understanding the consequences of his or her's actions. However, I refuse to believe that Dylan Klebold and Jeffrey Weise didn't "understand the consequences of their actions". They knew exactly what they were doing and why it was malicious and hateful. Dylan Klebold didn't commit suicide in the library of Columbine high school because he didn't understand why he would be convicted of murder and sentenced to prison. Klebold committed suicide because he knew exactly what he did wrong, how the law would act to prosecute him, and thought the best way out of his situation was suicide. To assume that juvenile's commit these crimes solely due to their undeveloped brain and irrational behavior is to deny the truth that, perhaps, this child has inner demons battling within them and needs attention right away.

And what does this say to these juveniles that need help before committing another massacre killing a number of innocent people? This ruling suggests that whatever he or she may do, whether that be murder, rape, or aggravated assault, at least they'll never face extreme punishment until they are of legal age. If a juvenile knows how to use a gun, a knife, or his or her's fist to take away the life of someone just as well as an adult, that juvenile should face the same exact punishment that an adult would be prosecuted with. If a Texas juvenile can get a job, have a baby, and give consent to have sex before the age of 18, it is fair to assume that they are capable of reasoning and behaving like an adult, and should therefore, be treated fairly as an adult. This ruling concerns not only the environment of our society by allowing these criminals to walk amongst us in a matter of time, this ruling concerns how juveniles perceive the criminal justice system as a weak, fragile, and broken back towards juveniles and their "crazy behavior".

Monday, July 23, 2012

Republican Blogger Doesn't Approve of Democratic Spending in Austin.. What Else is New?

On July 15th, 2012,  Michele Samuelson published an article on the Empower Texas blog regarding Austin's new plan to build a bike bridge. Samuelson argues that the spending for the bridge is unnecessary and frivolous and, ultimately, a significant waste of money. Samuelson concludes that the  $10.5 million bike bridge is "the essence of fiscal mismanagement" and that nobody is better at "spending  boondoggles" than Austin's city council. 

I can only hope that people understand that the role of the government is supposed to "represent" the people that are affiliated with the local government. If anybody were to "stereotype" an Austin resident, you'd paint a portrait of a bike rider that complains about the lack of bike lanes within a city. The idea of Austin's city council deciding to build a bike lane for a significant population living within the boundaries of Austin is sound and absolutely not outlandish. It is the role of the local government to listen to its residents and adjust accordingly to the needs expressed by the inhabitants. Of course any fiscal Republican is going to find this spending to be obsolete and ridiculous, it's in their fiscally-responsible blood. The intended audience for the article was Republicans living within the state of Texas or, more specifically, Austin, and it's evident that Samuelson is catering to what every Republican wants to hear: Democrats are incapable of properly managing money. However, Samuelson failed to consider the desires of Austin residents. The spending on this bridge is not only smart, but expected. For instance, if you have a community of residents living within your city that loves to swim in public pools, you'd take the necessary measures to ensure the pools are clean, well-staffed, and enjoyable to the large population that benefits from using the pool. Similarly, if you have a large biking population in Austin, it should be automatic to ensure they have the necessary roads and safety precautions to cater to their lifestyle. After all, doesn't Lance Armstrong reign here? 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Second Chances are Often Regretted

An editorial was posted on Monday, June 25th, 2012 concerning the Supreme Court's ruling that state laws mandating that defendants younger than 18 years old that are convicted of murder be sentenced to life in prison, without the option of parole is cruel and unusual punishment, violating the 8th amendment. The author of the editorial believes this to be a good decision, due to the fact that scientific studies show that a juvenile's brain shows a significant lack of deeper understanding and impulsive and reckless behavioral tendencies. The Supreme Court's decision was based on the studies showing that juvenile's often fail to thoroughly think through their consequences and their maturity level, response to peer pressure and their family background. The author agrees with the Supreme Court, the juvenile's brain is too unpredictable, rapidly changing, and quickly adapting.

 However, in my opinion, even if you are 7 or 9, children know that murder is wrong. In the case of Evan Miller, a 14 year old kid that beat up a 52 year old neighbor with a bat and set his neighbor's house on fire, I don't believe that Evan simply was "too young to understand the consequences of his actions". Although Evan had a very tough, sad, and extreme child hood which no one should every be raised in, he is old and wise enough to understand that murder is morally impermissible and unacceptable unless it falls under the scope of self-defense. His brain may be young, impulsive and reckless but that is no excuse to allow this individual to be let loose in the wild with a slap on the wrist and a stern "talking to". His actions speak louder than the apologies and regret he may express, and if any individual is capable of taking another person's life, they should be treated as an adult for their unlawful actions. I don't agree with the Supreme Court's ruling, it's allowing unfair treatment for children that demonstrate equally heinous behavior as adult without nearly the same consequences. Yes, as the author mentioned, if you imprison a child below 18 for life sentence without a chance of parole, that deprives the child of every experiencing life in this world. However, if we, as a nation, have the opportunity to deal punishment equally to children as we would with adults, this would deter children from committing morally impermissible crimes and blame it on a lack of deep understanding. It doesn't take the brain capacity needed to learn rocket science to understand when someone is dead, unable to regain consciousness and breathe another breath, children can skate through the criminal justice system free of any real consequences or punishment due to age. I assert that we treat them fairly, you are dealt what you deal. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Consequences of Governor Perry's Iron Fist

After the monumental decision of the Supreme Court upholding most of Obama's health care reform as constitutional, Governor Rick Perry quickly released a statement clarifying that Texas would choose not to abide by the health care law. KXAN released an article, "Big downside to saying no to health law," which pertains to the consequences of choosing to not implement the law within the boundaries of Texas. The already 1.3 million Texans that are currently uninsured would rise in number. Also, some middle class benefits wouldn't be available for Texans that qualify. Hospitals operating in Texas wouldn't receive funding provided by the government and without their funding, they'd be forced to close programs. Essentially, we'd be paying for a benefit that we wouldn't receive, our funding will go to a state that chooses to adhere to the law.

Whether we, as Texans, agree or disagree with the health care law there are consequences for either side. This health care law is extremely important and relevant for what it entails, a major change that the United States has never encountered before. It is critical to be aware of the major changes around the nation, but as well as here, in Texas. This article details the possible outcomes that could occur if Texas stands by its decision to opt-out of the law, a law that would affect each and every Texan. Governor Rick Perry's decision echoes the voices of many Texan residents that advocate for smaller government, limited government funded social programs, and an individualistic view point. However, the cries of the 1.3 million Texans that are uninsured will also echo from the East and West boundaries of Texas.