Archive for the 'Newspaper Articles & Editorials' Category

Federal Government Needs Restraint

Federal Government Needs Restraint

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
February 2010, Volume 86, No. 4

Right now, the state of Mississippi is struggling to deal with important issues like educational funding, state health care and the budget. Universities are raising tuition costs and consolidation of some is under consideration for cost efficiency.

Medicaid is presenting difficulties to the state as it takes up a greater percentage of the overall budget each year, and the national health care debate is not making things easier. Our state is approximately $400 million behind the year’s anticipated revenue and state lawmakers do not expect the situation to improve over the next year as the economic crisis continues onward.

State Senator Chris McDaniel (R-Ellisville) recently expressed his frustration at how the federal government’s excessive spending and its debate over health care have compounded the issues and impeded the ability of individual states, like Mississippi, to efficiently deal with our own issues (see story on front page).

The federal level chaos has created such a high degree of uncertainty for Mississippi that it is even harder to make tough choices in terms of budget cuts and tax increases. While McDazniel was clear that he will not support tax increases on Mississippi citizens, he pointed out that it would be almost impossible for Mississippi to tax its citizens who are already overtaxed by the federal government.

The election of Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts in January was a clear referendum from a state that has not elected a Republican to the senate in more than half a century that is fed up with the federal government’s recklessness and seeming lack of concern for the plights of Massachusetts citizens. Maybe more states should begin demanding that the federal government cease and desist for a while so that states can do what is best for their own citizens.

It is clear that the unrestrained spending that began with the stimulus package last year is making it nearly impossible for state and local governments to effectively deal with their own issues. The federal government should step back, scale down, halt massive spending reform efforts like health care reform for now, and give state governments an opportunity to deal with their own citizens without having their hands tied by further reckless decisions at the federal level. Jackson, MS should be allowed to function without the great specter of Washington, D.C. looming over it.


Examine Reasons for Season

Examine Reasons for Season

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
December 2009, Volume 86, No. 3

Christmas seems to begin earlier and earlier each year. Retail giants such as Wal-Mart and Target grow increasingly competitive with the fight for early holiday sales and promotions. This is true to such an extent that it seems that the spirit of Christmas that made it such a joyful event has been muddled behind the marketing aspect of it.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of eager moms, dads, spouses, and very good friends are up in the pre-dawn hours to line up outside malls, toy stores and department stores in order to catch the much anticipated Black Friday sales. Once the doors open, chaos ensues as people sprint in all directions to find the Christmas gifts they come seeking. Maternal fervor kicks in all across the country as moms battle each other for the last remaining of the year’s most popular toy.

This cartoon won first place for Best Cartoon in the Student division of the Mississippi Press Association's "Better Newspaper Contest," 2009-2010.

Tragically, last year, one Wal-Mart employee at a location in Long Island was trampled to death by an out-of-control mob while four other shoppers were injured, including one pregnant woman who had to be rushed to the emergency room. The mob of shoppers also knocked the doors off of their hinges at the store’s entrance.

If Christmas is about peace on earth and good will toward men, then it follows that such pandemonium isn’t the best example of the Christmas spirit.

In former times, Christmas was a more whimsical and family-oriented time of singing, dazzling lights and decorations. It was a time when people recognized the less fortunate in the world and gave in charity. Christmas was also a time of giving gifts to family and friends.

Today, however, that idea of giving has been superseded by the mad rush to obtain the gifts themselves. In many ways, it has almost because a sport for many to find the best deals and most sought after Christmas gifts.

So this year, take a step back and remember why we buy Christmas gifts in the first place. While we may be eager to rush out with the masses, stop and remember that Christmas is meant to be a time of peace and joy, not a time of stress. While the old adage that Christmas is about giving and not about receiving is true, it is also true that while Christmas is about giving, it is not about buying gifts.

Jackson’s Death Exposes Abuse of Celebrities by Society

Jackson’s Death Exposes Abuse of Celebrities by Society

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
November 2009, Volume 86, No. 2

Only four months after the pop legend’s death, a new film composed of footage from the tour Michael Jackson was preparing for is set to be released with footage from live rehearsals. Yet even in the aftermath of his troubled life, individuals and the media are still relentlessly hounding him with accusations and criticisms.

In fact, at the very hour news of his death hit, there were journalists on live television across multiple news networks reminding everyone that he had been suspected of child molestation amongst numerous other impolite conversations. On Facebook, everyone had something to say about his death in their status updates, including some who said that they were “glad that the child molester is dead.”
After living an extremely troubled life, growing up with an abusive father who only cared for him as much as he could exploit him for financial gain, living through numerous trials that publicity seeking parents had brought against him, an easy target, Jackson died only to continue to be the recipient of our harshest criticisms and least compassion.
Yet Jackson’s actions in life never provided evidence that his critics were correct in any way. In fact, they proved the opposite.
Perhaps because of his missed childhood, he never truly grew. Though hurt himself, he still saw the world through more innocent eyes than most of us, choosing to see the good in people and the need that others had. Guinness even identifies him as the most charitable celebrity in the world.
Look at the lyrics to many of Jackson’s songs and you will not see the perverse, hateful, womanizing, and downright despicable lyrics that so much of today’s popular music is made of. Instead, you will read lyrics about unity, a better world, and love for others.
Michael was not a child molester; he simply loved children, perhaps because he identified more with their innocent optimism, untainted by the bitterness that comes from life experience, than he did with the pessimistic realism of most adults. He’s even quoted as attributing his love for children to his faith, once saying that “Jesus said to love the children and be like children.”
If Jackson had a fault, it was his naivety in failing to realize that there were ravenous wolves who would take advantage of his tenderheartedness, seeing him as an easy target to use for the purpose of garnering fame and money for themselves.
Even though Jackson was acquitted both times due to insufficient evidence that he ever acted inappropriately towards a child, the damage was already done, and much of the media and the public had already condemned him.
We love to see the famous fall from grace, and when they do, we love to jump on the bandwagon of beating them up, mocking them, and treating them as if they are less than human.
In a way, this makes us feel better about our own problems and our own mistakes, and also assuages the jealousy some of us have towards those who have achieved fame and fortune. But of the thousands of celebrities who have suffered such a fate at the hands of the public, Michael Jackson is probably the least deserving. Yet even in death, he can’t seem to escape the endless barrage.
Next time you are tempted to levy criticism against Michael Jackson or any other celebrity, perhaps you should stop, take a look at the man in the mirror, and ask him to change his ways instead.

Open Minds Advance Society

Open Minds Advance Society

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
November 2009, Volume 86, No. 2

“Imagine  world without religion.” Some people think the world would be a better and much more peaceful place. Perhaps, however, we should try to imagine a world without closed-minded people. Despite the many wars that have been waged over the centuries in the name of religion, they all boil down to closed-mindedness and even willful ignorance.

A prime example of this willful religious ignorance is the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Known as “America’s most hated family,” Westboro members picket the funerals of U.S. soldiers, carrying signs with slogans such as “God Hates America” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.” They claim the fallen soldiers are dead at the hands of God’s angry judgment because they fought for a country that tolerates gays.

They claim to believe the Bible and base their beliefs on a few passages that Pastor Fred Phelps uses to seemingly confirm his theological ideas. However, in context, it is clear that the Bible does not send a message of absolute hatred. Have these people ever stopped to ask if they are wrong? Have they ever tested their own beliefs? Probably not. It is likely that they have long justified their ignorance as faith.” However, faith is not the same thing as ignorance.

Being open-minded does not mean letting go of all standards. It means people must look beyond what they have been told to believe and examine why they believe it. If a person chooses, however, to remain ignorant, he may continue traditions of intolerance and injustice without even realizing it.

We should be open-minded in all aspects of our lives, including politics, science, religion and education. Then, if what we believe is true, that belief will only be confirmed. When a person fears to question his own beliefs, it shows that he may be afraid of being proven wrong.

Thomas Jefferson recognized the importance of an open mind when he said thus:

Shake of all the fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.”

Since Jefferson’s time, slavery has been abolished and women and minorities have gained equal rights under the law. Were it not for open minds, the presidential election of 2008 would have only been a contest between white men. Instead, two women, a man of mixed race and two white men all vied for the top two offices in the United States in one of the most hotly contested elections in history.

So keep an open mind. It may be what makes this world a better place for future generations.

U.S. Education Falls Behind World

U.S. Education Falls Behind World

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
October 2009, Volume 86, No. 1

Mississippians are often reminded that our state ranks last in educational efficiency. What we are not often told, however, is that the rest of the United States is not far behind Mississippi.

A recent report by The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that U.S. placed 18th among 36 other developed nations included in the assessment. A more comprehensive study in 2005 by the United Nations in which 14 and 15-year-old students across the globe were tested on their knowledge also found the U.S. to be occupying territory near the bottom of the list alongside Germany. Not only is the U.S. falling behind the rest of the world, but the rest of the world is moving forward.

Some may wonder how the most powerful nation on earth, which has birthed more technological advancements and revolutionary inventions than any other nation, could possibly be so far behind the rest of the world in education. There are a number of factors contributing to our declining performance.

Social ideologies perpetrated in recent decades have had far-reaching effects across U.S. culture, eventually poisoning our educational system as well. These ideologies reward and eventually promote failure. For example, many educators of younger children are afraid to award one student for his or her achievement without also awarding all the others, even if they failed abysmally. So, in order to ensure that none are left out, the educator will engage in a sort of academic socialism in which he “spreads the reward evenly” to both those who achieve and those who fail.

On the surface, this sounds like a good idea; not only is the achiever rewarded, but those who failed are praised as well and leave with a sense of achievement. The problem, however, is that it is a false sense of achievement that never challenges or motivates those students to a higher realization of their abilities but instead sanctions continued subpar performance.

Numerous retakes, dropped grades, “nice” teachers, after-school programs and mindless curriculums that elevate theory above application give students a false sense of the real world, which is why so many get eaten up by Social Darwinism after graduating high school. In the real world, there are no shift retakes, dropped “grades”, after-work programs, or “nice” employers. Application is everything, while theory is just that–theory.

The offending mentality is fed by the federal government, which loves to control public education as much as possible, while consistently undernourishing it. This is a government that absolutely insists that our students should not taste the disappointment of failure. It has constantly attempted to veil disparities by trying to ensure that we are all equally uneducating. By doing this, it avoids the problem of addressing the real issues.

All of this combines to send studnets one clear message: “You don’t really have to achieve. No matter how little effort you put into it, we will tell you that you did your best. It is okay to perform below your potential. Just live off the success of others; the group is more important than the individual, anyway.”

Our failing educational standards are the end result of a groupthink mentality, which sacrifices the individual on the altar of the social good. Until our society and educational system begins to promote the value of the individual, our nation will continue to fall even further in all areas, and not just in education.

Interviews With Joe Tegerdine and U.S. Representative Gene Taylor

Tegerdine and Taylor Discuss 2010 Elections, Issues

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
May 2010, Volume 86, No. 7

The 2010 midterm elections are shaping up to produce heated contests all across the nation that could drastically change the political landscape this November. One of those races may well take place in Mississippi’s 4th Congressional District, which includes Gulfport, Biloxi, Hattiesburg and Laurel.

Several candidates have stepped up to challenge incumbent Democrat U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, who has occupied his seat for more than 20 years. One of those challengers is businessman Joe Tegerdine who resides with his family in Petal. Taylor and Tegerdine both took time to speak to “The Radionian” about the election, their positions on the issues, and their visions for America’s future.

Congressional Candidate Joe Tegerdine (R-Mississippi)

“There’s a lesson to be learned from winning and there’s a lesson to be learned from losing. I have learned valuable lessons from both. That’s life.” Photo by Ashton Pittman

One year ago, Joe Tegerdine was virtually unknown in South Mississippi. Today, most favor him to win the June 1st primary for the Republican nomination to the 4th District’s U.S. Representative Seat.

Tegerdine said that his campaign began last year after he involved himself with the local Tea Party group, with whom he attended an April 2009 Town Hall meeting held by Taylor. Tegerdine said that during the meeting, he and Taylor had a heated exchange.

“People were cheering after I spoke,” said Tegerdine. “Immediately, someone tapped me on my shoulder and said ‘Hey, have you thought about running for office?’”

At the time, Tegerdine had only considered getting involved in politics at an older age. However, over the following weeks, he made a decision after finding himself troubled by national events.

“It was the realization that if I didn’t do something today, then I would not have the country I grew up in to pass to my children,” he said.

Tegerdine entered the race with business experience, a bachelor’s degree in communications, and a juris doctorate, but he lacked political experience. He considers that a positive.

“I truly believe that if we are going to put our country back on the right track, average, everyday Americans have to take the country back from career politicians,” he said.

Tegerdine believes that one of the biggest problems in American politics is the propensity for career politicians to be continuously reelected with the aid of special interest groups. He plans to champion an amendment that would limit U.S. Senators to two terms and U.S. Representatives to four terms. He has pledged to serve no more than four terms if elected.

As a Congressman, he would also like to work to wean Americans off dependency on entitlement programs that he believes will eventually bankrupt our economy. He related his story of being raised with four siblings by a single mom and the struggles they faced.

“She justifiably needed some help,” he said, “but I firmly believe that kind of help needs to come from your family, your church, your charitable organizations, and the very last option would be your community.”

He disagrees with critics who have alleged that he seeks to cut the lifelines of the needy.

“I believe that if we take the federal government out of the equation, people will start being more charitable again and families will take responsibility for their ailing or disabled family members,” Tegerdine said. “I think it’s a fallacy and a lie to think that just because the federal government isn’t there with a handout that somehow we would lose our humanity and not take care of each other. I think that we are starting to lose our humanity because we have just allowed the government to take care of our loved ones.”

Tegerdine also takes a family-based approach to education.

“We’ve got to find a way in our country to reengage parents in their children’s education,” he said, adding that parents, not federal bureaucracy, are the key to our children’s education.

He disagrees with educational programs that insulate children from failure.

“There’s a lesson to be learned from winning and there’s a lesson to be learned from losing,” he said. “I have learned valuable lessons from both. That’s life.”

Congressman Gene Taylor (D-Mississippi)

Station Gulfport Ribbon Cutting

“I wish everyone had been as concerned about the national debt as I have been. You can’t spend more, collect less, and pretend it’s going to work.” Photo by uspcgpress of Flickr.

Congressman Gene Taylor has served as the Mississippi’s 4th district U.S. Representative since his initial election in 1989. While the anti-incumbent mood is causing concern for some incumbents, Taylor is not worried.

“People have been running against me for 20 years,” he laughed.

He disagrees with Joe Tegerdine’s idea on term limits.

“I oppose them,” he said. “We already have term limits—elections.”

He also dismissed criticism levied against him by opponents accusing him of supporting Nancy Pelosi.

“That’s an election that took place in San Francisco,” he said. Taylor believes that his record will show him to be on the side of the American people, not fellow politicians.

Some have suggested that his ability to hold this Seat for 20 years in one of the nation’s most Republican districts is remarkable. His success in the 4th District may be largely due to his willingness to embrace conservatism. He emphatically describes himself as a “very conservative Democrat.”

However, his party has moved to the left over the past year, with lavish stimulus packages and a liberal healthcare reform bill. Even so, Taylor does not place the blame solely on his party.

“I wish everyone had been as concerned about the national debt as I have been,” he said. “You can’t spend more, collect less, and pretend it’s going to work.”

Taylor said that he has been concerned about federal spending under both Democrat and Republican presidents.

When it comes to the recently passed health care reform bill, the only question for Taylor is whether it should be repealed or amended.

“I would prefer to repeal it,” he explained. “I guess it’s going to depend upon the makeup of the Congress in January.”

He does not believe, however, that the bill is entirely bad.

“Some provisions are worthwhile,” he said, pointing to the portion that bars insurance companies from discriminating against those who have pre-existing conditions.

Even so, he believes that bulk of the bill is bad policy that will only add to the national debt.

Taylor conceded that tackling the national debt crisis will not be easy.

“It’s going to be very difficult,” said Taylor.

He explained that the ongoing wars in the Middle East, programs like Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and an aging population are all complicating the problem.

“This is why we don’t need to make any new promises,” Taylor said.

When it comes to paying off the debt, Taylor does not rule out the possibility of raising taxes.

“There will have to be some changes,” he said. “If we’re going to be at war, then we ought to be willing to pay for that war right now. Any program worth doing is worth paying for right now.”

Taylor offered advice for college students who may feel discouraged by the woes facing our country.

“Read history,” he said. “When you read history, you realize that every generation of Americans has had significant challenges.”

Whether it was the people who had to weather the Great Depression and World War II, or those who had to serve in Korea and Vietnam, Taylor said each generation of Americans has risen to meet its challenges.

“I intend to help us to face these challenges and to protect the freedoms and liberties we cherish so that we can leave a better place for our children and grandchildren,” Taylor said.

Exploitation of Race Card Destructive to America

Exploitation of Race Card Destructive to America

The Radionian
By Ashton Pittman, Opinions Editor
May 2010, Volume 86, No. 7

A year and a half after we elected our first non-white President, the race card continues to play a shameful role in American politics. It seems almost impossible to criticize legitimately the President’s decisions without enduring accusations of racism. If anything, racial accusations have become even more prominent than before.

The latest issue to draw racial ire is Arizona’s immigration bill, SB1070. The bill allows law enforcement to verify the status of people reasonably suspected of being illegal immigrants.

Since being signed into law, it has met a firestorm of controversy. Politicians and pundits from across the nation have been quick to inject race into the mix, suggesting that the bill mandates racial profiling.

In a piece entitled “The Arizona of 2010 is the Alabama of 1963,” The Huffington Post’s Robert Creamer argued that the law will result in attacks against Hispanics akin to those perpetrated against civil rights marchers. Others have likened the law to the segregationist Jim Crow laws.

The immediate move to play the race card disregards the facts in favor of brash hysteria. The bill states, “The attorney general or county attorney general shall not investigate complaints that are based solely on race, color or national origin.”

The truth is that illegal immigrants are responsible for a large amount of crime in Arizona, including drug trafficking, theft, violence and even murder. For the protection of its citizens, it was necessary for Arizona to pass a bill that would allow it to enforce its immigration laws.

The law is not about race; despite the fact that 76 percent of illegal aliens are Hispanic, the bill specifically disallows racial profiling. As bill sponsor Russell Pearce said, “Illegal is not a race; it’s a crime.”

Frankly, those who default to the race card anytime their beliefs are challenged represent an appalling form of intellectual cowardice. By marginalizing those with whom they disagree, they divert attention from the actual issue and avoid ever having to qualify the merits of their own position.

They also “divide and conquer” by encouraging people to vote along ethnic and racial lines. Perhaps they are the true modern day segregationists.

Exploitation of race for political gain is destructive. Its anti-intellectual nature undermines healthy debate and births racial animosity that did not exist prior. Most unfortunately, it diminishes the sufferings of all those who have ever truly faced the harsh reality of racism.

Out of respect for common decency, it is incumbent upon Americans of all colors to reject the gross abuse of the race argument, reserving it only for those times when it is plainly warranted. When that day comes, we can begin to engage in a national dialogue that exhibits some semblance of integrity.


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