By Stephan Graham and Gavin Lichtenstein
The 8th Amendment in the United States Constitution states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel unusual punishment inflicted.” Over two centuries after the fathers of the Constitution inked the famous words on to paper, the conversation of human rights in prisons, black sites and Guantanamo Bay still remain in 2014.
The morning of March 31, the Senate concluded that enhanced interrogation techniques to find Bin Laden in May of 2010 were not effective in finding the leader of Al-Qaeda. In other words, confirmed by the Senate on Monday, the United States could have captured the extremist leader without the use of enhanced interrogation methods on high profile detainee, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Faraj Al-Libi.
The unimaginable tactics of humiliation, water torture, shock therapy and sleep derivations are all tools in Uncles Sam’s work belt in keeping the United States citizens safe. The leaders of Al-Qaeda were not focused on overthrowing the government; they had a desire to kill innocent lives and shake the foundation of freedom in the United States. The 8th Amendment is only subjected to citizens of the United States. The CIA uses all tactics to their advantage when United States citizens are placed in harm’s way.
Human rights can never be ignored when it comes to the topic of enhanced interrogation methods. The Constitution even gives an American citizen their right to solitary confinement and not be subjected to cruel punishment. However, the interrogation used on prisoners of war after Sept. 11, 2001 was done to find the man responsible for killing thousands of innocent people.
Under the Geneva Conventions, lawful combatants—like the United States military—who are uniformed, follow commands and do not target innocent people, are protected under the laws of war. Moreover, terrorists are unlawful combatants, who do not follow command and specifically target innocent men, women and children in their attacks on America. Thus, Al-Qaeda operatives who were tortured through enhanced interrogation methods, such as water boarding, had zero protection under the laws of war. If terrorists are stripped of their weapons, they are still considered a threat by refusing to give information on terrorist attack plans.
When the homeland security of the United States is threatened by terrorism, anything goes when innocent lives are at stake. These interrogation methods were not solely used to gather information from detainees, but to establish cooperation. You can sit these guys down and play “good cop” by asking questions, but why would the terrorist talk?
Enhanced interrogations were used to instill fear and demand compliance. The CIA wanted the truth and that was the ultimate goal.
By Mike Sauter
Oculus Rift, a virtual reality display that is placed on the head, has officially been bought by Facebook for $2 billion. The deal is incredibly controversial, with most of the blame being cast on Facebook for buying up any product and firm it can find.
A prototype of Oculus Rift was unveiled at the Electronic Entertainment Expo in 2012 and the company developing it, Oculus VR, announced it was launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funding for further development. The campaign was wildly successful, raising over $2.4 million through Kickstarter alone. Its goal was $250 thousand. Total funding for the project reached $91 million.
Understandably, a lot of the early investors in Oculus are upset. They were hoping the virtual reality display would be truly innovative for the gaming industry, but now there are comics floating around the internet of Oculus being used to play Farmville. There are a few investors who are going to make a lot of money from the deal, but a lot of the smaller, private investors did not care about a return of investment. They only wanted the product to be developed according to the original plan instead of Facebook’s ideas.
Facebook cannot truly be blamed that much for the deal, however. It is a social media giant and is terrified that when its platform goes, its value is going to plummet. After seeing MySpace fail in an epic manner, all Facebook is trying to do is diversify its assets. The blame should almost entirely be placed at the feet of Oculus VR for taking the deal. The popular phone app Snapchat turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook in November 2013. The firm had total creative control over its virtual reality display, but gave up that control in no small part due to money.
Oculus VR already had several lucrative venture capital deals. One of these deals involves the firm Andreessen Horowitz, which supplies firms with capital to jumpstart the development of unique ideas. However, all those involved are trying to spin the deal to appear as if it concerns something other than money. Chris Dixon, a board member of Andreessen Horowitz, said, “Facebook’s support will dramatically accelerate the development of the virtual reality ecosystem. While we are sad to no longer be working with Oculus, we are very happy to see virtual reality receive the support it deserves.” It isn’t Facebook who is trying to make this deal out to be something that it is not, and it isn’t Facebook who should take the blame for the deal.
The bottom line is that Oculus VR did not have the creative integrity that it promised its early investors it possessed. Supporters of the virtual reality display are ridiculing Facebook because that is the easy thing to do. Nobody likes to see things they believe in fail, but being disappointed is no reason to be irrational. Sure, Facebook is the big bad guy of the internet, but that does not mean everything that happens is its fault. It is a business and it bought out Oculus VR. There was no hostile takeover.
By Kerrin Garripoli
On graduation day, you won’t see me with my $20.14 senior spirit cord around my neck. It won’t be because I don’t love La Salle–I do (on most days, when I don’t hate it.) It’ll be because I don’t have the money, because I’m disappointed in La Salle University’s general attitude about giving and because guilt and peer pressure are not convincing arguments in my book.
In La Salle’s fundraising blitz that lasted for 24 hours on March 20 (La Salle’s birthday), 862 donors gave $77,713.96. As you can probably guess, I was not one of them. I watched my friends happily participate and give with pride and happy sentiments toward the school. Instead of being filled with excitement and pride on the first Lasallian Day of Giving, however, I was extremely disappointed in the attitude of a lot of people at La Salle.
On my way through the quad on the way home, I was stopped by someone in Advancement and asked if I had donated my $20.14 as a senior yet. When I said I hadn’t, I was scoffed at and told, “That’s not very Lasallian!”
I understand the Lasallian spirit of giving, and I do what I can, but that stung. I couldn’t donate because I had only a little more than that in my bank account and I needed to buy food for the week. Beyond that, as I explained to the staff member, tuition drains a significant amount of what little money I even have. On top of that, I’m looking at student loans when they kick in a few months from now.
The advancement officer’s response to my tuition payment explanation?
“It’s not like that money’s coming out of your pocket anyway.”
How very Lasallian of you to decide, without knowing me or my situation, that I don’t pay my own tuition anyway so I should have money to throw around.
I understand that La Salle needs money. I understand that they’re in debt. I’ll also openly admit that I’ve been granted my fair share of scholarships here. When I can, I give. And in the future, I hope to be able to give more. However, I truly can’t afford to give back yet beyond my time and talents, and at every turn that has been looked down upon.
The “you’re all rich kids whose parents pay for everything so you should feel guilty for not being Lasallian and giving” attitude has to go. This institution was founded on St. John Baptist de La Salle’s mission to educate people of all classes equally and without regard to their bank accounts. Our mission says, “The University is committed to providing an education that begins with a respect for each individual student.” It’s incredibly disappointing that at a University which stresses its desire for diversity and community to be perpetuating such a poor stereotype about its students or creating an expectation of charity toward the school itself. The goal of charity should not be self-serving, and to make students, many of whom are notoriously low on funds already, feel a sense of guilt for not donating what little they have back to a school they already pay thousands to attend seems unfair.
The large amounts of money made ensured that the Lasallian Day of Giving will be a new Charter Day tradition for the University, and it’s clearly a successful quest in which I hope them well. I only ask that the attitude of entitlement and assumption be checked at the door next year. In the spirit of St. John Baptist de La Salle, we stand “Together and by Association,” and I believe that means we need to make an effort to be understanding, kind and warm to each other. Students benefit from the community’s generosity, but they also benefit from an environment in which they feel like they are worth and wanted for more than their money. Respect needs to be paid forward just as much as funds. Being an Explorer doesn’t end when you leave 20th and Olney, but lasts a life time. With that comes a responsibility to act like an Explorer in every sense–to be respectful and foster positive community as well as to encourage charity.
By Matt Howell
So we’re at the peak of March Madness once again, arguably the best sporting event of the entire year. It’s a month of amazing basketball with fantastic stories that few see coming, like Cinderella stories such as Dayton and Stanford, and great games with fast rising stars that have their moments of pure fame, even if just for a short time. On the flip side of the Cinderella stories, we see massive downfalls from big-time programs like Kansas and Duke. Teams that are well-known for having great underclassmen players that are rumored to go into the NBA Draft this coming summer despite a college career that many would deem to be a “failure.” Even past this, there are some sportswriters and commentators that have displayed disgust with the idea that some of these players would leave, and that their schools “deserve” to have these players back from one more season. Supposedly, these schools “deserve” an NCAA Tournament run and possibly a championship from these elite talents.
First off, this is an absolutely ridiculous claim to make. For far too long the NCAA and its president, Mark Emmert, have continued to assert that student-athletes owe far more to the school than the school owes to them. In return for a college education (even a partial one), student-athletes are supposed to give millions of dollars back to their universities through ticket sales, merchandise, etc. The players are being given the gift of education after all, so why would they deserve to see any money from tickets and jerseys that are being sold because of their performances?
Even in the past year we have seen this conflict come to a head in the court system. For many years, the NCAA has been assisting EA Sports in creating videogames titled NCAA Football, which literally copy the attributes of players, but never use their name. The NCAA has continued to make a convoluted argument that somehow the players represented in the game are certainly not the players you see in real life. Just because you happen to see a fast Caucasian quarterback with the number two for Texas A&M in the game, that does not make it Johnny Manziel. Sorry NCAA, your logic does not add up, and so for the foreseeable future we will no longer see these games made since they do not pay the people who are being represented, which are the players.
The NCAA is having an incredibly difficult time adjusting to the new world of college and professional sports. In terms of basketball especially, the NBA continues to offer student-athletes a much better option if they believe they are talented enough to make it at the next level.
Rather than having to deal with writing ten page papers, not seeing a dime from your own jersey sales or suffering some sort of career-threatening injury, the NBA provides many players an opportunity to cash in on their skills. If some of these players may go earlier than others would like, it is still their decision to make within the rules of the NCAA and the NBA. It is ridiculous to think that these schools deserve any more from these “student-athletes” than they already get. In reality, many of the major football and basketball programs receive exponentially more money out of these players than they give. If anything, the players deserve the opportunity to move to the next level as soon as they can if they feel like they can be paid accordingly for the skills and money they will bring to the franchise.
March Madness continues to provide some of the best stories in sports, but a dark cloud continues to loom over the NCAA in regards to their student-athletes. On March 26, Northwestern football players succeeded in securing a vote to unionize from the National Labor Relations Board. Clearly, the NCAA and its players are coming to the climax of a battle over the term “student-athlete.”
By John Schatz
After nearly two million immigrants have been deported under his administration, President Barack Obama is finally entertaining the idea of deportation review. The massive number of deportations that have occurred under his administration have caused Obama to be referred to as the “deporter-in-chief” when it comes to immigration.
The White House press secretary Jay Carney released a statement that explained the reason for the review, saying, “The president emphasized his deep concern about the pain too many families feel from the separation that comes from our broken immigration system.” Part of the pain of separation Obama is concerned about is a direct result of an executive order he signed in 2012. The order protected children who are taken into the country illegally, while deporting the children’s parents.
The review has been a long time coming. I personally know several individuals who have legally been on the path to obtaining a green card, investing tens of thousands of dollars in the legality of their status, only to be told the process has to be restarted because they turned 21. I know three people who have been in the country for over 10 years who still do not have their green cards. It is atrocious. The process is slow, inefficient, expensive and tedious.
There has been talk in Congress of instituting immigration reform, but as usual, all progressive efforts are being delayed as long as possible. Any reform would provide the Democratic Party with a significant number of Latino votes, and the Republican Party will do anything it can to prevent the partisan nature of Latino voters to affiliate even more with the Democratic Party. In the same vein, the review itself may just be a political ploy to hold the Latino vote. In June 2013, a bill went through the Senate that would have provided 11 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, but, of course, the House of Representatives struck down the companion legislation.
Aside from the pain caused by tearing families apart, there are also economic benefits to granting a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. There are jobs getting done now that allow for the presence of other jobs in the country. If all of the illegal immigrants performing low wage labor were deported, Americans would have to take these jobs at the expense of other, more academic jobs.
Even if nothing comes of the review, at least immigration reform is making some headlines. The worst thing that could happen is the issue being pushed to the back of the minds of those in Washington.
By Stephan Graham and Gavin Lichtenstein
The United States of America has now seen 44 presidents in office, with our current president being the first African American to be elected into the White House. After the past two presidential elections showing the impact of the black vote, the vote for a woman leader could make its appearance in 2016. But why will so many Americans vote for a woman? Are we forcing a woman into office to show equality, or is this woman the right person to turn America in the direction it needs to be in?
These questions should be in the back of voters’ minds as the Democratic Party works to punch the ticket for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign. Looking back at 2008, voters not only liked the political platform of Barack Obama, but some of the votes he received were racially motivated.
America has made its primary focus on moving towards equality in sexual orientation, religion and gender throughout the nation. Americans right away hear the possibility of a female candidate in the 2016 election, and a voter’s decision can already be set, no matter what he or she stands for. Other countries have women in office. Currently, Denmark, Germany, Argentina and several other countries have elected women to office. When will a woman lead the United States?
Some would say a woman in power is exactly what this country needs. However, the woman for 2016 would run under the Democratic ticket and there’s an ever-increasing chance the Republican Party will overtake the Senate and maintain the House of Representatives. Will the voters just put a woman in office to have her there? The first woman to have a fair chance of winning the presidency may be the right person to elect, but she may very well be the wrong the person. When it comes down to electing a president, the political platform of the candidate, not his/her gender should be voted for.
The likely candidate for the Democratic Party nominee in 2016, former senator, first lady and secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton continues to dance around questions of the upcoming election. Many Americans are fascinated with the idea of the first woman president behind the presidential podium. There is no doubt; Clinton is a strong candidate and leader in the Democratic Party that should be viewed by her experience, policy and work ethic in the campaign. Many members of the Republican Party forget about her great experience, followed by her powerful policies.
As first lady of the United States, Clinton worked to make healthcare more available for more families. She is an advocate for pro-life campaigns, while supporting adaption care services. Clinton is a supporter of the LBGT community saying “DOMA discrimination, keeps us back from a more perfect Union.” As secretary of State, she was part of the Benghazi crises of 2009 and Libya movement in 2011. She has not declared herself a candidate for the presidency as of March of 2014. The likely democratic nominee should be viewed for her outstanding experience in Washington; she should be viewed for her policies and structure. In 2014, we as a society are past the phase of voting for a candidate because of social economic status, race or gender.
The topic of women’s rights in 2014 has been most relevant as of late with the democratic party working to increase the minimum wage to $10.10/hour. In the 21st century, women are now leaders in the courtroom, in the hospital and in the office, not because they are women but because they are the most qualified for the job.
It’s time to put one in Washington.
By John Schatz
Every five years, Congress passes an omnibus bill that covers agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry called the Farm Bill. A Farm Bill that saw cuts to the food stamp program was signed Feb. 7, 2014. Since then, several states have chosen to enact state policy to combat the ill effects of the Farm Bill. Massachusetts is now the eighth state to assist residents hurt by Congress’s decision to cut $800 million a year in food stamps expenditures, joining Connecticut, New York, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont, Oregon and Pennsylvania.
The Congressional cuts eliminate the ability of citizens receiving federal heating assistance of as low as $1 to automatically be eligible for larger food stamp assistance. Congress has decided the qualification should be a minimum of $20 a month in heating aid for higher food stamp eligibility.
House Speaker John Boehner has accused the states approving measures to assist those in need of circumventing the intent of Congress. Boehner seems to only be in favor of state rights when it benefits his personal agenda. Additionally, the states are dealing with the law cutting food stamp spending as it is written. It really begs the question of why Boehner is so against citizens and families in need of assistance from receiving it when it is totally separate from the federal budget.
A spokesman for Boehner attempted to answer this question and said governors who are signing legislation that decreases the severe negative impact on those dependent on food stamps “are putting those who depend on the home heating program at risk, and taking money out of every American taxpayer’s pocket.” The fact of the matter is that those governors were elected into office to represent the people of their states, which is true of neither Boehner nor his spokesman.
In this accusation, something that is worth noting is Boehner claims the states are wasting taxpayers’ money. In reality, the states would not need to be enacting legislation that increases funding for heating programs in order to help citizens qualify for additional food stamp benefits if the federal government had not passed the current version of the farm bill. Since states must have balanced budgets, it is actually Congress who is costing taxpayers the opportunity for their states to spend the money in other ways or even give them tax breaks.
Connecticut’s Governor Dannel Malloy has some choice words for Boehner, writing in a letter that, “To characterize as cheating and fraud states’ implementation of this provision is disingenuous at best and shameful at worst.”
The State Secretary of Health and Human Services of Massachusetts, John Polanowicz, was more diplomatic in his stab at the food stamp cuts, stating, “Reversing the cuts from the Farm Bill is a major step in helping Massachusetts families work toward economic stability.”
On one level, even though the food stamp program was only cut by one percent at a federal level, so many citizens and families are dependent on it that nearly any cut is severe. On another level, regardless of whether the cuts should have happened or not, the states are acting well within their rights by enacting programs that provide families with heating assistance in order to help them qualify for higher food stamp benefits.
It is clear that making it more difficult to qualify for the food stamp benefits is a power move by Boehner and certain other members of the Republican Party. The accusation voiced by Boehner are only a result of state legislators and governors outsmarting him.
By Steven Johnston
Over the past weekend it was impossible to go anywhere in Philadelphia without seeing green. From the decorations strung outside and inside restaurants and bars to the masses of people walking around Center City and college campuses, St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated throughout Philadelphia. A number of celebrants took the holiday to a new level of debauchery by getting sick throughout the city and the more sober spectators probably wondered when or if the police would intervene.
One such individual was J.N. Salter, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and a feminist. Salter wrote a story for The Huffington Post on Tuesday titled, “Being White in Philly St. Patrick’s Day Weekend.” Her article was a reaction to the above description, city policies that “disproportionately target people of color”, and a controversial Philadelphia Magazine article titled “Being White in Philly.”
Salter compares the events to the 2010 and 2011 summer flash mobs stating, “Though some Philadelphia teens did engage in acts of vandalism, the majority were nonviolent kids just hanging out, some watching break-dancing performances. Nevertheless, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter imposed a stiffer curfew for people under 18 and delivered a Bill-Cosby-Pound-Cake-esque lecture from a pulpit at Mount Carmel Baptist Church.” During the flash mobs, Anna Taylor suffered dental damage and Tom Fitzgerald’s injury placed him in a coma for several weeks.
Ms. Salter, did you ever encounter one of these flash mobs? Were you beaten in public for no reason? Was your store vandalized for no reason at all? To boil the flash mob problem down to a few groups of kids watching break dancing on South Street is extremely naïve and absurd. But of course the only reason anyone is making a fuss over Fitzgerald and Taylor is because they’re white; that’s white privilege after all. Both were victims of Salter’s so called “vandalism.”
I believe that there is a place for Salter’s piece and I may not agree with the militant language she uses when talking about the “white mobs”—the same language she protests being used when describing minority groups who are congregated in public—but I also believe that her arguments are part of the problem surrounding race relations.
She has drawn a line in the sand creating a strictly “us versus them” paradigm, and she speaks in absolutisms: either the police are wholly racist and wrong or whites always enjoy privilege and nothing less. She also dictates the mindset of every white person in America: “To most of America, more than one Black/Latino standing next to each other wearing the same color equals gang, threat, flash mob.”
This is no approach to creating an effective and open dialogue. Maybe Salter doesn’t want that, maybe she wanted to goad someone like me into reading or responding to her article; regardless of her intentions, I cannot agree with the close-minded and combative arguments that Salter is espousing here. Yes, there are race problems here in Philadelphia and in the United States, and we can’t ignore them, but at the same time, starting a war of words will not get us very far.
By Patrick Moyer
St. Patrick’s Day is supposed to be a celebration of Irish culture, faith and tradition. But, all too often, people use March 17 as a platform to perpetuate and embrace negative Irish stereotypes. Stale, insensitive jokes about Irish alcoholism and buffoonery litter the airwaves. Major retailers sell offensive t-shirts that demean and mock the Irish, and public drunkenness is passed off by some as an embodiment of Irish culture. These trite conceptions have become too prominent, and they are undermining what should be a prideful celebration for the nation’s 34.5 million Irish Americans.
The Irish have made a number of significant notable contributions to the world over the centuries. Writers such as James Joyce and William Butler Yeats produced classic pieces of literature and poetry. John Tyndall discovered why the sky is blue. John Philip Holland invented the submarine. Actors such as Daniel Day-Lewis and Peter O’ Toole have had incredible careers. Bands such as U2 and Van Morrison have sold millions of albums worldwide.
It’s also important to note that this country wouldn’t be what it is today without the help of the millions of Irish immigrants that came here in order to escape famine and religious persecution. Clearly, the Irish have a lot to celebrate, but little is said about milestones and accomplishments on St. Patrick’s Day. The inescapable fixation on booze and banality dwarfs everything else.
St. Patrick’s Day is perhaps the only ethnic holiday largely driven by negativity and self-deprecation. Yes, local parades, family-oriented gatherings and religious services do a good job of celebrating the holiday in a positive, encompassing manner. The mainstream interpretation of St. Patrick’s Day has totally distorted the purpose of the holiday. People are beginning to gradually push back against the degradation.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic advocacy organization, recently called for major retailers to stop selling T-shirts that berate Irish culture. They said that even if the shirts are only meant to be humorous, they “are an outrage to those whose Irish heritage traces to hard working Irish immigrants, not to a beer bottle.” Bill Stieger, a blogger for The Huffington Post, recently wrote an article lambasting Irish Americans that “perpetuate every derelict stereotype” about Ireland. Their words are blunt, but they echo truth.
I’m not scolding those who choose to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by partying and drinking. It’s a matter of personal preference, and if people choose to celebrate that way, that’s okay. However, it’s not okay to hail binge drinking and carelessness as central tenets of Irish culture. The jovial acceptance of negative Irish stereotypes breeds ignorance and bigotry. Branding all Irish people as drunks and delinquents does a major disservice to the immigrants that toiled and struggled to carve out comfortable lives for themselves, both in the United States and Ireland. Irish culture is more than Guinness and leprechauns. It’s rich, varied and historic, and it should be fully recognized and appreciated on March 17.
By Gavin Lichtenstein and Steve Graham
Tensions between the United States and Russia flared as voters exited the polls the afternoon of March 16 when the autonomous region of Crimea voted in favor of joining Russia. Tensions between the Ukraine and boarder neighbor Russia started in late November 2013, as former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych accepted a deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin for $15 billion of Ukrainian government bonds and cuts at the pump for Russian natural gas. The deal sparked riots and protests in the streets of eastern Ukraine. On Feb. 28, just days after the Winter Olympics in Sochi came to a close, Russia sent over 16,000 troops into Crimea as a way to protect the Russian natives in the area, Putin stated.
On Sunday, March 16, Crimea held an election of citizens living in the region asking if they would like to stay as an independent territory in Ukraine or join Russia. The votes were tallied just after 5 p.m. on March 16 with 96 percent of the votes in favor of joining Russia. The White House responded to the vote early on March 17, stating the United States will support Ukraine and we (the United States) will never acknowledge this vote.
That’s the tricky part, as the United States is torn once again on how to respond to support our allies in Ukraine while holding Russia accountable for their actions. Many Republicans are less interested in sanctioning Russia, and more interested in physically getting involved. President Obama, along with the United Kingdom, placed significant sanctions on Russia and President Putin’s administration.
The sanctions included a hold on all assets in the United States and a ban on travel for 11 people, most involved in the Crimea vote. The United States is not the only country placing sanctions on Russia; nations from the European Union, such as Belgium, have also placed sanctions on 21 people held responsible for a clear breach in the Ukrainian Constitution.
President Obama said earlier this week that if Russia does not begin to make more positive changes regarding Crimea, the United States’ sanctions on Russia will only become steeper as time moves on.
That’s what it would appear to be as of right now in Crimea as legislation was passed shortly after the final vote was cast in favor of making the Russian ruble the official type of currency in Crimea. In addition to new currency, starting March 30, Crimea will change its clocks to Moscow standard time.