Letters to the editor: October 29, 2009

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(1) Dear Editor:

Having read the recent column, “Debunking a convenient myth,” I decided to take the author at his word and do a little debunking of my own. A quick glance at Wikipedia, which provides multiple pages detailing the global warming controversy, revealed that, despite Mr. Perry’s allegations of a lack of scientific consensus, there is in fact overwhelming consensus on the issue, and “since 2007 no scientific body of national or international standing has maintained a dissenting opinion.” For those who wish to see for themselves, any of the following pages will provide plenty of information:


Furthermore – just to do Mr. Perry justice – I looked into Alan Carlin’s report rejecting the worldwide scientific consensus on global warming to see if he had a point. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t. According to the New York Times, Dr. Carlin is not a climatologist, but an economist, and his skeptical views on global warming have been argued by scientists both within and outside the Environmental Protection Agency. His views had not been ignored due to political disagreements, but because they were simply incorrect, citing unverified blog posts as fact and using selective quotes from scientific journal articles. So, for anyone else who is unsure about the truth behind global warming, I would recommend taking Mr. Perry’s advice, and looking up the data. After all, it worked for me.

Alex Forrest
UMass student

(2) Dear Editor,

After reading the article about Governor Patrick’s visit, I was disappointed to learn that neither the governor nor the students seemed particularly interested in addressing the real issues facing young adults in the Commonwealth. That is not to say tuition hikes and taxes are not important to every resident of Massachusetts of any age – they are – but they are nowhere near as important as the real, legal issues surrounding the rights of Massachusetts residents. I am, of course, speaking about the prohibitions on the rights of not only legal adults (such as the drinking age) but the prohibition on the rights of so-called “minors” as well.

Restrictions on the rights of youth have increased several fold since the 1950s, according to an article in Governance magazine entitled “What is the Age of Responsibility,” but for what reason? According to parents, teachers and other authority figures it is because those under whatever arbitrary age is set (18 or 21) are incompetent and irresponsible so they must be strictly controlled. But what benefit does this have on society? Nothing besides the possibility for more controllable people once they have reached 18 or 21 and are granted more rights than they had before to control their lives and bodies.
Society has gradually been stripping away the rights of citizens (those under 18 are citizens with the responsibilities to obey the law but with few, if any, of the rights to change it) and criminalizing ordinary playground, adolescent behavior like fighting (assault and battery), kissing, hugging, holding hands (sexual assault), consensual sex between two underage parties (statutory rape, sex offender), staying out late (curfew violation-possible arrest), not going to school (truancy-possible arrest), saying controversial things (restrictions of freedom of speech in schools), bringing non-prescription drugs to school (drug law violation-possible arrest), other drug law violation (arrest, loss of financial aid) having “weapons” in cars (zero tolerance-possible arrest), caught with alcohol as a legal adult 18-20 years old (Minor in Possession, charged in adult court) and so on. The list goes on and on. All of these things have happened to students, to taxpayers, to adults, to soldiers.

But there is good news, Boston College Law students have actually helped to overturn criminal penalties for curfew violations ($50 civil fine still applies) in the entire state of Massachusetts thanks to a lawsuit by a 15 year old. Savanna Redding, once a 13-year old, was accused of carrying prescription strength Ibuprofen and was subsequently strip searched and has partially won her case. The school was at fault, but the administrators will not lose their jobs. A lawsuit is ongoing on in Boca Raton, Florida where a local chapter of the National Youth Rights Association is attempting to overturn an illegal curfew and lower the voting age. The Amethyst Initiative and the National Youth Rights Association are attempting to overturn, or at least open up, debate about overturning the unconstitutional 1984 National Minimum Drinking Age Act and restore the rights of legal adults in the United States, but without the active support of everyone of all ages this can not be achieved.

Is it too much to ask for a little bit of help? There seems to be a plethora of apathy on campus and that should change, people need to speak up and defend their rights because if they don’t, no one else will.
Lindsay Coley
UMass Student

(3) Dear Editor,

It would be nice to read editorials based on facts rather than random claims. I am curious to know what “research” Alex Perry claims to have done on global warming based on his claim that “many scientists think that man-made global warming does not exist.”

Since Perry could not bother himself to check the facts, I did so myself: hardly surprising is that 97 percent of climatologists and 82 percent of all scientists agree that global warming is man-made, according to a survey by the University of Illinois in Chicago.

The IPCC report on climate change, which included 2,000 scientists input, has claimed to be 90 percent sure that global warming is man-made.

But really, a scientist isn’t needed to know that 600,000,000 cars and millions of tons of coal releasing heat-trapping carbon dioxide every year is eventually going to do something to the planet. In addition, it would be beneficial for Mr. Perry to re-check his other claims as well, as they too are easily proven false. Shame on Mr. Perry for not getting the facts straight, and shame on the editors for not calling him out.

Tim Cheplic

(4) Dear Editor,

Whether readers agree with or dispute the facts and analysis of the Blue Hills Road letter writers, Ms. Burland or Mr. Oldham in the October 16 Bulletin, it seems clear that the lives of Amherst’s elementary school students, parents and teachers are all being severely disrupted by the consequences of a single school committee decision based solely on the claim that closing Mark’s Meadow will save $600,000 to $700,000 annually.

UMass has provided the Mark’s Meadow building and all utilities to the Amherst schools for decades. The detailed February 2009 school committee estimate of $600,000 to $700,000 for the annual cost savings from closing Marks Meadow has been disputed by the Mark’s Meadow principal, whose estimate of the annual cost savings for closing Marks Meadow is “no more than $300,000.”

Even if the savings from closing Mark’s Meadow amounts to more than $300,000, those savings will be more than offset by increases in ELL (English Language Learner) personnel costs directly resulting from the school committee’s new, inflexible school districting policies prohibiting open enrollment and breaking up the Cambodian, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, etc., language clusters.

Those attending recent elementary school meetings or watching the proceedings on ACTV have heard many costly post-February 2009 promises from the new superintendent and school committee about the steps they will take to soften the impacts of closing Marks Meadow and carrying out redistricting.

What we have not heard about are the cost estimates to implement those promises; and the likely cost impact on the district of angry, frustrated parents transferring their children via school of choice to elementary schools in nearby towns (at a $5,000 per child cost to the district) or to nearby charter schools (at $8,000 per child), and thereafter refusing to vote for school driven overrides.

If the alleged Mark’s Meadow closing cost savings are not fully updated and publicly evaluated before a redistricting plan is adopted, Amherst could face the loss of Mark’s Meadow, the loss of the music, art and other programs that closing Mark’s Meadow is supposed to save, and defeat at next spring’s proposed override.

Dade Singapuri

(5) Clarification of Bill Protecting Transgender Individuals

RE: “Massachusetts hate crime laws not effective,” Alana Goodman, October 21st

Dear Editor,

I would like to clarify Ms. Goodman’s misleading account of the bill, “An Act Relative to Gender-Based Discrimination and Hate Crimes,” (HB1728). Her conception of the bill is that it, “…mandates harsher punishments for prejudicial crimes against transgender people.” Ms. Goodman’s claim, “it’s unlikely that [the bill] will actually give additional protection to the transgendered community,” is fundamentally wrong.

The scope of the bill covers many aspects of life beyond violent hate crimes. HB 1728 protects transgender individuals from discrimination by public schools, charter schools, employers, labor unions and a multitude of other institutions. In summary, the bill provides clear, unilateral protection for transgender people from discrimination in the state of Massachusetts. For example, a person cannot be fired from a job on the sole basis of gender identity or expression. Such discrimination would be forbidden by explicit state policy.

HB 1728 is designed to protect a vulnerable and marginalized population. It is not a way to waste taxpayer money or for supporters to feel morally righteous. The effectiveness of anti-hate crime legislation deterring violence is debatable. However, contrary to Ms. Goodman’s claim, HB 1728 will give additional, concrete protections to the transgender community.

Joseph Terranova

UMASS Student