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Tuesday September 2, 2014
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Supreme Court equates money with speech (April 10, 2014 issue)

By Patrick Moyer
Collegian Staff

Money has had a long and impactful effect on American elections. Fundraisers, merchandising and advertising have always played instrumental roles in sustaining and expanding political campaigns. However, in just the last few years, expenditures on elections have skyrocketed. The 2012 presidential campaign between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama cost a total of $2 billion. By contrast, the 1992 Presidential campaign between Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush and Ross Perot only cost about $300 million. This dramatic spike in campaign spending can mainly be attributed to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, which stated that the government can’t restrict corporate spending on elections. And just last week, the Court handed down another decision that will undoubtedly bolster money’s role in campaigns even further.

Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court made a ruling in the McCutcheon v. FEC case. McCutcheon v. FEC dealt with restrictions on the amount of money that individual donors can give to political candidates and committees. In a 5-4 ruling, the court struck down a spending cap that prevented individuals from donating more than $123,000 to political candidates and parties over a two-year period. This means that wealthy donors will now be able to donate their money to a broader array of political candidates across the country. Base limits, which set specific restrictions on the amount of money that can be given to different political entities, were left in place. But it’s widely believed that the current Court will strike down base limits as well if the right case presents itself in the near future. Supporters of the decision, mainly conservatives, have praised it as a victory for the First Amendment. They believe that monetary spending is a free speech issue, and that many campaign finance laws infringe on their right to speech.

The “money is speech” argument is very dangerous. Money is not speech. Money is a form of capital with a finite supply. Speech, on the other hand, is the ability to express oneself freely in order to communicate some sort of message to others. Equating money to speech puts a price tag on a person’s ability to participate in the political process. And, since money is finite, equating it to speech puts a restrictive cap on the amount of “speaking” that poor and middle class voters can do. That principle ironically contradicts the very reasoning that conservatives espouse to support the “money is speech” argument.

In reality, the dismantling of campaign finance laws is not a valiant crusade to increase freedom of speech in America. It’s a concerted effort to obliterate the level financial playing field so that the wealthy can exert a controlling influence on the electoral cycle. The people that most benefit from Citizens United and McCutcheon are billionaire mega donors such as George Soros and Sheldon Adelson. Giving mega donors the ability to donate unlimited amounts of money to candidates for public office turns them into kingmakers. Primary elections could soon become a farcical process. Voters won’t get to decide which candidate is best suited for their party’s nomination, a handful of casino moguls and business magnates will make that call. All they’ll have to do is dilute the influence of other primary candidates by funneling tons of money to their “chosen one.”

The gradual and continual loosening of campaign finance laws will inevitably turn America into an oligarchy. Everyday citizens will still have the right to vote, but the candidates, messages and topics for discussion in campaigns will all be predetermined by those who “speak” with their checkbooks. People need to start speaking legitimately, with their voices and not their money, to halt the insanity before it’s too late. It may take a new Constitutional amendment to halt the corrosive effect that monetary “speech” has on the political process. But if that preserves the parity of free speech, it’s a worthwhile option to explore.

Women ignored by Republican Senators (April 10, 2014 issue)

By John Schatz
Collegian Editor

Unsurprisingly, the Republicans in the Senate voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act before it could even be debated on April 9. The act would make it more difficult for employers to engage in wage discrimination based on gender.
The bill was not by any means a guarantee that women would be paid the same wages as men by employers, but the employers would be burdened with proving that the pay discrepancy was not based on the employees’ genders. It would be necessary to provide breakdowns of pay based not only on gender, but on race as well. While the bill was promoted as one that would grant female employees equitable wages, it would also have further protected employees from wage discrimination based on race.

The voting in the Senate was strictly along party lines. All of the Republicans there at the time of the ballot voted against moving the bill along to open debate, while all of the Democrats present voted for opening the bill to debate. Senate minority leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., questioned the decision of the Republicans. He posed the question, “Are they so repulsed by equal pay for hardworking women that they’ll obstruct equal pay for equal work?”

There are many reasons to be outraged over this bill being voted down, morality aside. To make one point on the morality of it, women earn 77 cents to the dollar earned by men. Even when male and female employees have the same level of experience and education, the female employees have been found to receive seven to nine percent less than male counterparts. Beyond the issue of what is just, women make up half of the workforce in our country, and more and more are becoming the primary source of income in families. The failure of the Senate to pass this bill means that in instances where it is true that females are the family’s primary source of income, the children are worse off.

The possibility that the Democratic Party is using the issue of gender pay equity to garner political support from the female vote does not take away from the seriousness of the issue. Looking beyond the use of the iniquity for political gain, the benefits are great. Families would be able to use the additional income for food, education, bills and more.

Hopefully, voters can see what was lost with the bill being voted down and will respond accordingly in November. The partisan manner in which votes were cast should provide voters with a clear picture of where each party stands in terms of women being paid the same wages as men.

United States dominated by political dynasties (April 10, 2014 issue)

By Gavin Lichtenstein
Collegian Staff

The 2016 presidential campaign is expected to welcome back many friendly faces of the political world with Democratic front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican hopeful, Jeb Bush. Bush was the governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, son to George H.W. Bush and brother to George W. Bush. The former Florida governor stated that he would make a decision on running in 2016 later this year. A major influence of his decision will be if he feels he can deliver an optimistic message without being thrown headfirst into a political mud fight.

Former First Lady Barbara Bush publicly stated earlier this year she hopes her son does not seek the presidency in 2016, stating, “If we can’t find more than two or three families to run for higher office, that’s silly.” Barbara Bush is trying to protect her son and her family from holding the presidency for a fourth total term.

At what point does the United States Constitution limit the amount of terms a family can hold office? At what point can the United States’ political history be compared to countries like China, Cuba and North Korea? All three nations have had leadership within one family for decades leading among the people.

Jeb Bush is often considered a moderate conservative on many modern issues in the United States, a supporter of the death penalty while supporting pro-life campaigns. Jeb Bush also has a strong relationship with the Hispanic communities while being active on immigration and equal laws. A study conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies stated in the 2012 political election, the Latino vote contributed to 8.9 percent of actual votes. Jeb Bush has been an outspoken advocate of gun rights and laws including stand your ground.

The 2016 election could take voters back in time with a Clinton and a Bush toe-to-toe once again on the political stage.

Colbert’s satire misunderstood (April 3, 2014 issue)

By John Schatz
Collegian Editor

There are some professions in which making insensitive comments that come dangerously close to what society has deemed taboo are not only acceptable, but necessary. In the recent controversy with Stephen Colbert and the Twitter account Comedy Central ran, it was made evident that not everybody shares my opinion.

The owner of the Washington Redskins, Daniel Snyder, created a foundation called “Washington Redskins for Original Americans” in order to try and ameliorate some of the negative press his organization is receiving for the name of the franchise. On The Colbert Report, Colbert was in character and said, “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” A Twitter account that Comedy Central ran, which Colbert has made them shut down, tweeted the quote and there was an uproar online about how Colbert was racist and the hashtag “CancelColbert” began to trend. Even other comedians are calling Colbert’s judgment into question over the joke.

The misconception that Colbert is racist arose for two reasons. The first is that people saw the quote and did not view it in the context of the skit that mocked Snyder on The Colbert Report. The second is that it still somehow escapes people that Colbert is in character when he does his show. The character he plays is an ignorant conservative who believes all the offensive stereotypes on the face of the planet. Colbert himself is not a racist and, to pick up where I began the article, actually does society an incredible service by playing this character.

If comedians cannot test the limits of what society considers acceptable behavior and try to bring insights about the status quo to the forefront of our minds, what group will be able to? Telling people that their way of thinking is wrong is no easy task and doing so while making them laugh is often the best way to do so. Colbert was reminding us that, despite egregious claims of conservative pundits that racism in the United States has ended, it is very much a part of our culture today. Colbert and his writers took it upon themselves to remind the viewers of this fact and force people to feel uncomfortable with it.

The beauty of his character is that it allows him to make us laugh, doubt and self-assess all at the same time. The offensive stereotypes Colbert’s character believes ought to be brought to the forefront of our minds more than they currently are. If we are not thinking about them and discussing them, how will they ever change?

It was not Colbert who acted in the wrong in this situation; it is all the people who called for the cancelation of his show. The Colbert Report succeeded in making us uncomfortable by forcing us to acknowledge that racism still exists in society and many of us reacted by calling Colbert the problem instead of recognizing that he is doing more to be part of the solution than nearly any of his critics.

If he were not an ingenious satirist and comedian, things would be different. However, he is, so pretending he is anything else to make a point is misguided. There is a danger in limiting what comedians are able to mock. Some satirists are just as much social commentators as they are comedians.

There is a greater tragedy than the immediate controversy surrounding the tweet, however. The truly heartbreaking part of this entire situation is that Colbert was put on blast while Snyder, whose foundation was not satirical, has escaped unscathed.

Interrogation methods deemed ineffective (April 3, 2014 issue)

By Stephan Graham and Gavin Lichtenstein
Collegian Staff

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.

Facebook villainized irrationally after buying out Oculus (March 27, 2014 issue)

By Mike Sauter
Collegian Staff

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.

La Salle oversteps bounds collecting money (March 27, 2014 issue)

By Kerrin Garripoli
Collegian Editor

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.

Universities owed nothing by NCAA student-athletes (March 27, 2014 issue)

By Matt Howell
Collegian Editor

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.”

Deportation policy under review (March 27, 2014 issue)

By John Schatz
Collegian Editor

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.

Hillary Clinton’s experience more important than her sex (March 27, 2014 issue)

By Stephan Graham and Gavin Lichtenstein
Collegian Reporters

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.

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