Music

posts >> nikolai > william

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Nikolai

Music just ain’t what it used to be.”  I seem to be hearing that more and more these days.  But is it true?  Styles have changed, yes, but what about the quality of music?  Many people would say that the quality of music has declined.  Especially in the last few decades.  But who decides quality anyway?  I know I don’t, not for the masses anyway.  Do you?  Who am I to put down someone else’s piece of art?  Many would consider the Beatles to have produced some of the greatest songs ever, and though I would agree… how do you think Beethoven would feel about their music?  He might see things differently.  Music is about how you feel.  Whether writing or listening to it, everyone feels something different.  I think its up to the individual listener to decide what music they like to listen to, but it’s not the end-all opinion either.

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William

Music is largely terrible these days. The days of Mozart and Muddy Waters are over. In comparison, Britney Spears, Panic At the Disco and New Age ocean sounds are barely listenable. The sad fact is that most of Americans are looking for quick and easy. Terrible music is assessable and so permeates our society that it fraudulently becomes accepted as good music. If you know music and the complex subtlety that makes great music, you are more hard pressed today then ever to find it. Our best days are behind us for now, as bubble gum pop is marketed and sold to a musically illiterate audience. If your favorite artist is Hannah Montana, please don’t bother responding.

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Exploration

posts >> william > nikolai

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William

When was the last time you were inspired? I can only imagine what it must have been like to be in a family during America’s westward expansion. What would it have been like to be with Christopher Columbus when he discovered the ‘new world’, or to have stood and heard JFK rally us to soar among the stars? It has been far to long since we in America have been inspired to reach out and explore.

Perhaps we have lost a sense of exploration since most of the dry land mass has been explored and largely settled since westward expansion. I believe however, that there is so much more to reach for. The mystique of the deep sea lead to such works as “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and our past inability to discover its secrets gave rise to myth and lore. But now we have the technology to go deeper, to understand more, and to reach again for possibility, if only we were inspired to do so.

Exploration is an end in itself. There is no telling what advancements may come, if any, from the exploration of the deep sea, or space for that matter. If past investment in exploration is any clue, we have a lot to gain from such an endeavor. But even more then the technological possibilities, we have a lot to gain from inspiration’s possibilities. It is unifying in a time when red and blue states and have and have-nots divide our nation. It pays economic dividends in a time of economic hardship. But most of all, it ignites the curiosity in a nation founded from curiosity. With so much going wrong, we need to hope for what could be. I’d like to be inspired once again, how about you?

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Nikolai

Most people would agree that knowledge is important in the way we live. The way to gain knowledge is to learn, and the way to learn is to explore. Exploring is essential to our existence. Had it not been for Columbus’s journey most of you readers would not be here today. The risk was evident, failure and even death. But the reward was much greater. And luckily for us Christopher Columbus saw the possibilities that lay ahead. He saw the future; he saw the hope for something more.

I feel that the emphasis of exploring is being lost in our lifetime. We’re more concerned about war, famine, poverty, oil prices and perhaps rightfully so, but what if the answer to all of these problems is “out there”, obtainable if someone were to just imagine and take a risk. The fact is we’ll never know what’s out there unless we try to physically explore. We can hypothesize all day long but in the end what good is that? It’s just a guess.

There is what seems to be an infinite amount of space that has yet to be discovered, planets that are unvisited, and not to mention a whole other world that exists below us; the sea. Maybe we don’t know what we’re expecting to find, but we’ll never know until we get there. Perhaps the cure for cancer is in outer space somewhere, maybe an idea for alternate fuel is in the deep sea. The possibilities are endless.

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Technology

posts >> bradley > edward

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Bradley

I’m very glad I live in the time period in which I do.  I have indoor plumbing, electricity, and Google at my fingertips.  But when you really think about, I’m sure if you could ask Alexander Hamilton if he liked the time in which he lived, he would probably say yes as well.  (Probably because he doesn’t know any better)  Though something as technical as 802.11N has made life more convenient for us, technological innovations of mixed significance have progressed along throughout history.

Now that we have iPhones and other media all in our hands, we need to be careful not to forget about people.  There will be many that go hungry tonight that live on the streets, despite the fact that if we wanted to, we could bring everyone in off the streets and even pay for “rehabilitation” of some sort.  Basically, I think it’s astounding that a piece of technology like the iPhone and poverty can coexist in today’s world.  I mean, it’s 2008 for crying out loud!  Obviously there isn’t anything intrinsically evil about new/cool technology, it just feels like with every step technology makes, we end up distancing ourselves from the burden of having to care about people.

Well, now that I’ve alienated all iPhone users, I feel I should explain a bit better.  Technology has accomplished many great tasks and by and large has made life “easier” for us.  Levi Strauss gave us riveted blue jeans, NASA gave us freeze dried food and Velcro, and another genius gave us this.  I’m glad we have people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates around, but we need to be careful what we spend our money on, and not get caught up in “stuff” that ends up running out of battery power and collecting dust.  Technology has brought many great things to the world, but it’s up to us to remember that only people matter.

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Edward

It may seem like a basic assumption, technology comes with responsibility, but unfortunately I don’t think many people make that connection. For example, it has taken more than a decade since the introduction of the cell phone to develop any sense of appropriate use or etiquette (and we haven’t come that far). So what happens when technologies such as human cloning or genetic manipulation get thrown out as the panacea to the world’s problems? How about this one; better technology, not life style changes, is the answer to global warming?

These are questions/statements people make all of the time, routinely without an afterthought. But let’s go back to the cell phone. The butterfly effect (not the lame movie but the scientific theory) of cell phone technology has been immeasurable for both good and bad; people who were once unable to participate in the global economy because geographical barriers now have mobile proximity to markets. Conversely, would be menaces to society now have ease access to networks, information and capital to bring whatever harm they intend to a much broader swath of the worlds people.

Technology inherently is neither good nor evil. It is neutral, but without responsibility has the potential to do exponentially more harm than good. The Manhattan Project is the prime example here, however, with responsibility technology can catalyze the process to bring a better future to the world; the flu vaccine or dwarf wheat. The fundamental point being; no new technology can be introduced without a ripple in the pond, or put another way without unintended consequences. Can we manage those to a minimum or will technology take us places we never wanted to go?

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Nuclear Energy

posts >> william > nikolai

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William

The times they are a-changin’, truly. Going ‘green’ has come in vogue amidst some very real energy hikes and crisis’ that have spurred alternative energy’s profitability and highlighted some of its attractiveness. It is time that we take what we’ve learned about our environment, new technologies, and invest in a sustainable future of renewable energy. It is time to revisit one of the best ideas the U.S. ever had, nuclear energy, and move on from an overblown scare that happened at Three Mile Island nuclear facility 29 years ago.

The scare which stalled, if not intermittently ended, our civilian nuclear energy program which was begun under Eisenhower, has left us a country that is dependent on coal for half of its electricity. Coal is obviously not the answer since coal-fired power plants actually release more radioactivity than a nuclear plant and since they release tons of carbon and sulfur (etc) where nuclear power is clean. Other renewable sources of energy are not the answer either: an example of this point is that the Indian Point Energy Center creates the same amount of energy produced by 385 square-miles of wind turbines.

Ultimately we need to decide, how safe is nuclear energy, and what are the costs and benefits. Well first, the benefits. A small amount of uranium, smaller then a baseball, is equivalent to a 5 story buildings worth of gasoline. France is a prime example for the effectiveness of Nuclear energy, getting over ¾ of its energy from nuclear power. On issues of safety, the U.S. Navy’s shows critics an accident-free record in powering its 80 ships for over 5,400 reactor years without emitting any greenhouse gases.

On issues of safe removal and storage of nuclear waste, I would steer you to research Yucca Mountain and it’s approved capacity to store the pellet-form of waste in a safe manner away from civilization. Ultimately, the times they are a-changin’, France is peddling its Nuclear capabilities to other countries and stands to win big contracts and political capital all why we pay our homage to OPEC and a technology of the past. Times they are a-changin’; but are we?

Sources:
http://www.nei.org/
http://www.americanenergyindependence.com/uranium.html
http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5j9kbCdss47gaPin6xZeeLKqBXnLg
http://www.howstuffworks.com/nuclear-power.htm
http://web.mit.edu/nuclearpower/

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Nikolai

There is no doubt that nuclear energy has been very beneficial to our society. Through this technology we have been able to decrease our dependence on foreign oil by about 12 billion dollars a year, and we aren’t releasing as much green house gas into our atmosphere. It’s also true that uranium goes a lot further in use than that of oil, coal or any other fuel that is used for making energy. If the information stopped there, deciding whether or not to use nuclear energy would be a “no brainer.” Unfortunately that’s not the case.

There are a few problems when using nuclear energy. The first being the waste it produces. What do you do with literally tons of nuclear waste? Nuclear waste remains toxic for thousands of years. Most of the plutonic waste is being stored in underground and water-filled basins or containment centers. Just because this method is seen as the safest way to store nuclear waste, does not make it safe. I would hate to think what could happen if this waste got in the wrong hands.

Another alarming issue with nuclear energy is the overall safety inside the plants while producing the energy. On March 28th, 1979 the plant located on Three Mile Island, PN experienced a partial meltdown. Nuclear emissions were released into the air when multiple safety features such as bypass valves failed to fully activate. It appears that the fallout was minimal but the problem is still relevant. There is no doubt that we as a country have learned a lot from this experience, but with that being said nuclear energy is far from perfect. We need to decide once and for all if the reward is worth the risk. Is energy more important than human life itself? We should be spending our efforts finding and creating safer and more natural energy.

Sources:
http://men.style.com/gq/features/landing?id=content_6424
http://www.umich.edu/~gs265/society/nuclear.htm
http://www.etsu.edu/writing/3120f99/zctb3/nuclear2.htm
http://www.solcomhouse.com/nuclear.htm

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Education

posts >> bradley > edward

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Bradley

What do you want to be when you grow up? This question is commonplace in schools across the United States and it is being asked of students at an increasingly younger age. It is expected of our youth to have a solid handle of what they would like to make of themselves in this short life of ours. The typical answers we’ve all heard before: astronaut, fireman, doctor, pro athlete. But as a student advances through the grades and into the final years of high school, that same question rears its head. This time with a bit of a twist. What to do about college, not to mention a subsequent career. If this student has not been taking AP courses in high school then they are already at somewhat of a disadvantage. Feeling unsure of the future, and a bit indifferent, this student may elect to enroll in a Jr college with the intent to complete the GE requirements at a relatively inexpensive rate. This student is unknowingly making a tradeoff that could possibly have profound effects. Many Jr colleges have classrooms that are overfilled with both students and apathetic mindsets. This does not always create the best learning environment for the student. After a few semesters of average grades, the student may even begin to wonder what they are doing with themselves. Would it have been worth it to pay a little or a lot extra in order to have a different college experience and education? Obviously the choice is case specific, but it seems as if Jr colleges have become the default of many new high school graduates. I’m definitely not suggesting attending a college or university because of its name, but there is something to be said about the quality of the human products of a quality collegiate educational institution.

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Edward

Education is the most important aspect of building a strong society. It is the golden ticket for the well off and the down trodden alike. If you stay in school and earn a college degree, regardless of your families history you can provide a better life for yourself and your family.

So when we talk about the failure of public education we are talking about the failure of our society. Education is the foundation up which everything else is built. When we fail to educate we fail at the only important thing we have to accomplish.

This is no clearer than in our urban high schools and our community colleges. Statistics recently released in a study, published by USA Today find, “Fourteen urban school districts have on-time graduation rates lower than 50%; they
include Detroit, Baltimore, New York, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas, Denver and Houston.”

As to our community college system, while there are many reasons to attend a two year university, (too many of them to get into in one post) one of their primary functions is to transfer students to a four year university. At this task we are failing as well.
education-graph.jpg
(click to enlarge)

Citing the report, Community College Transfer Rates to 4-year Institutions Using Alternative Definitions of Transfer, we are struggling to transfer half of our community college students to four year colleges and Universities.
Couple this with the graduation rates in our major urban areas and we get a grim picture of affordable public education and its success in our society.

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Gas Prices

posts >> Edward > William

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Edward

As we continue to slide, or freefall, into a recession our dollar doesn’t seem buy what it once did. Food prices are on the rise across the world, and so to are fuel prices—and on top of that our wages are staying they same, which means in the end we are giving ground. All this would seem to be repudiation of deregulated industries and markets in favor of government assistance as times get tough.

But, I argue, even in the face such problems the hands-off approach is best. Now is not the time to regulate industries heavily or cap prices. No where is this harder to do than with gasoline. We are paying more in both percentage of our incomes and in sheer numbers than we ever have before for unleaded gas. Even so, government should not step in and control prices with a cap or subsidy.

Such a measure would be short-sighted and would not address basic concerns. Instead, consumer will/should make difficult lifestyle choices based on inconvenient fuel prices. Only when consumers stop purchasing gas at the same rate, or when they start making alternative choices, will the political/corporate will arise to change the way we travel.

If we put off these inevitable changes with some band aid measure they will only be more difficult to face in the future. There is never a good time to deal with the transition from gas cars to alternative fuels or from natural gas to wind energy—or from coal to nuclear. But lest we do it now, we may very well wait until it is too late. The best way to induce these changes is to disincentivize wasteful habits, high gas prices surely do that.

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William

Gas prices are outrageous and the government has a mandate to do something about it. Let me bring you back to a little episode in history aptly named the Boston Tea Party. I submit that as American’s with affinities for cheap goods of all kinds, we will likely revolt before we cut back consumption.

We demand cheap tea, and oil, (and cake), of which we will drink, deplete and eat! Though not perfect, there are a few very analogous points between tBTP (the Boston Tea Party) and UOP (unreasonable oil prices). One is that we are completely underrepresented in the pricing of oil (a side note: I realize we have contributed 10-15% of the price of gas by voting for taxes, but when the price of crude oil barrels doubles in the last 8 months, forget the 50 cents that pave roads). In the same way, Americans were not represented when the British (instead of OPEC, Canada, BP and the future market traders) were undermining good old fashioned, smuggled, colonial tea by basically subsidizing a British tea company.

Now when it comes to oil, we (the joe-shmow making it with an SUV, 2.5 kids and a little bit of debt) are indeed snobbishly and foolishly consuming at a rate that only drives up the price, unwilling to change our lifestyle to decrease it. We buy it like addicts of crack with nothing stronger then complaints about the pricing. The only reason we do such, is because we have no alternative. We are given our crack-oil and not even our escapades in Iraq have increased our ability to affect the price.

When those with a monopoly on a commodity set the price and inflate it so plainly over such a short period of time, it is exploitation of our addiction. Our government has a right to protect its consumers just like it does its farmers. And it is in its interest to do so, because it will keep its culture of consumers spending and fueling economy and industry.

So what will we do ultimately in the face of oil-tyranny? We will either invade Iran, or whomever else, until we find this oil revenue that Bush claimed would fund the cost of war, drill Alaska, or dump it all straight into the harbor of OPEC countries and Canada – Boston Tea Party style.

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Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

 

posts >> publuis > nikolai

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Publuis

It is important to understand the concept of money as a foundation to build tax structures. Currency is a value store. It is exchangeable at a given rate for a good or a service. A dollar then is nothing more than a potential good or service. With more dollars you have the potential to acquire more goods or services. Fundamentally important to this exchange is the actual value of money. How many goods or services it is worth? In these terms wealth is measured in possibilities or potential, not in the actual stockpile. Or put in other terms, money lost is opportunity lost, so a lot of money lost is lots of opportunity lost. Or lastly, if money loses value against the worth of goods and services opportunities for commerce are lost.

For example, in Russia during Soviet rule money’s value declined against actual goods and services. Therefore a consumer needed more money to buy the same good compared to its actual worth. Money lost value.

Therefore, taxation needs to adequately manage a nation’s revenue as well as maintain consumer purchasing power. If a majority of the tax burden is focused on those individuals with concentrated wealth, then the overall ability for the exchange of money for goods and services is limited. So to facilitate more robust spending, and in turn economic growth, sound tax policy is to reduce taxation on those who have the most purchasing power. To compensate for the reduction in tax revenue government spending must be tied to income, or the pay-as-you-go model. This can be done by cutting non essential government programs or shifting them to private sector services.

The notion that good tax policy is taking away wealth from those who have the ability to exchange their money for the goods and services that provide jobs is baseless. Rather, the wealthy need to retain a larger portion of their income so that they can in turn spend or save it. This will keep the value of the dollar high, and our economy moving forward.

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Nikolai

One of the most heated debates between the Democratic and the Republican parties is tax structure. When you take out the fancy words and phrases you’re left with two choices; raise taxes, or lower them. If we looked at those two options just as they are simply presented we’d be fools to think that raising taxes is the better option. Who wants to pay MORE money to the government? The answer is nobody. However, it’s not as simple as raising or lowering taxes. Think about what taxes pay for. Most if not all of the things it pays for are necessary to the lives we live today.

The Sixteenth Amendment in the US Constitution states, “The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes on income, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” As much as we do not enjoy paying taxes, they are a must. I believe that those who make more money should have to pay a higher percentage of tax. The wealthy are able to afford to pay more taxes than the working poor, or working middle class. An argument can me made saying that the richest people should be paying less taxes because they are responsible for more of the spending which in return boosts the economy. This is true but unfortunately it will not solve America’s debt problem. There may not be a short term or even a long term solution to paying off our country’s debt, but raising taxes seems to be a step in the right direction… unless of course Visa is willing to offer us a credit limit of 3 trillion dollars with a low fixed rate!

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