Don’t Sound Dumb At Dinner: February 3, 2012

By Samantha Plotner

On Campus

“Finally.”

The Athena Film Festival is coming the Barnard (just in case you haven’t noticed the signs all over campus). The festival begins February 9th, and the whole schedule can be found here.

A year after Barnard made the switch, Columbia has announced they are leaving behind the much-maligned cubmail in favor of a Gmail interface. The move will be made gradually, starting with 50 to 80 students, and by the end of 2012 all Columbia undergraduates will be on the Google system.

New York
Susan G. Komen for the Cure pulled funding from Planned Parenthood that had been used for cancer screening. Komen is saying it is because the organization is under investigation. However it has been criticized fiercely for the decision, with many thinking it is because pressure from pro-life groups. Karen Handel, who became a senior vice president at Komen in April, campaigned for governor of Georgia and stated very clearly her personal opposition to Planned Parenthood. Response to the move has included Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledging to match $250,000 in donations to Planned Parenthood.
Update: Under pressure, Komen has reversed their decision, the organization’s full statement can be found here.

USA
The Republican Presidential Primary is still raging. Mitt Romney won the Florida primary quite handily. Though as a consequence to moving their primary up so early, instead of their usual 99 delegates, Florida will only have 50.

Why you should buy Facebook stock.

Facebook is going public, meaning soon you will be able to buy shares of the college student staple. The whole company will be valued at somewhere between $75 and $100 billion, making it the largest public offering of a technology company in history. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and last year’s Barnard commencement speaker, could become a billionaire and one of the richest women in Silicon Valley.

The World
A riot in Egypt left 600 people injured and 70 dead on Wednesday. The riot occurred in the aftermath of a soccer match, and some activists are blaming the government saying it either didn’t do enough to stop the violence or even openly encouraged it.

Samantha is a junior at Barnard and Editor-in-Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Business Insider and Scenic Reflections.

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What’s Up with the GOP? : Your Guide to Election/Campaign/Decision 2012

By Laura K. Garrison

Gov. Mitt Romney

With the coming of the New Year, the race for the Republican nomination has reached the home stretch. Now one caucus and two primaries in, no clear candidate has emerged for the GOP, while President Obama launches his reelection campaign. Assuming that this is your first time voting in a presidential election (remember to register if you haven’t already!), you will now have a voice in helping decide the course of the nation during this critical period in America’s political history. Here’s a cheat sheet of what’s happened (and what still could go down).

Who’s out?
The number of candidates has dwindled over the weeks,. After disappointing returns in her home state during the Iowa caucuses on January 3rd, Representative Michele Bachmann announced that she was ending her campaign the following morning. After forsaking Iowa for New Hampshire where he received his third-place “ticket to ride,” former Utah Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman withdrew from the race on January 16th, endorsing former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Though his lack of time in the spotlight undoubtedly contributed to Huntsman’s decision, it may have been partially motivated by polls that reported him behind Stephen Colbert in the comedian’s home state of South Carolina. On January 19th, Texas Governor Rick Perry suspended his campaign after reassessing his unlikely odds in the Palmetto State. Perry endorsed former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Who’s in?
Four candidates remain in the running for the Republican nomination. Representative Ron Paul has stayed in the race, though he is getting little media (and less and less voter) attention. Former Senator Rick Santorum (Google it at your own risk) remains in the race and is the favorite of evangelicals and social conservatives. The two heavy hitters, however, are Mitt Romney, the fallback candidate of moderate Republicans and Newt Gingrich, his tenacious opposition.

Speaker Newt Gingrich

What’s happened?
On January 3rd, I (and the political analysts of the 24-hour news networks), stayed up until two in the morning as the votes in the Iowa were reported and re-reported, a la the 2000 election. By the end of the night, Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses by eight votes, only to be stripped of this win two weeks later when recounts revealed that Rick Santorum had actually won the Hawkeye State by 34 votes (though the state has officially declared no winner could be determined). A week after the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney easily won the New Hampshire primary, thanks to his influence as former governor of Massachusetts and his owning of a vacation home in the Granite State. On January 21st, Romney was pitted against Newt Gingrich in South Carolina, the former Speaker coming up with an unexpected and decisive win. Sadly, Stephen Colbert (running for President of the United States of South Carolina under Herman Cain’s name) received one percent of the vote and suspended his exploratory committee.

What’s next?
So far, each contest has had a different victor – Santorum in Iowa, Romney in New Hampshire, and Gingrich in South Carolina. The Florida primary is tomorrow, January 31st. I think it’s safe to say that Santorum and Paul are effectively out of the race, but Florida just may be the state that gives Romney or Gingrich the push of momentum through the rest of the primaries. If Romney wins the Sunshine State, he may prove to be the inevitable candidate that pundits declared months ago. If Gingrich wins, his campaign may continue to take off, ruining the plans of Republicans who view Romney as the only electable candidate against President Obama in the general election. Tune in Tuesday; it’s almost guaranteed to be an interesting show.

Laura is a first-year at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia and Politico.

2011 State of the Union Recap

By Samantha Plotner

President Obama. Word.

The State of the Union address is an interesting convention in American politics. Derived from a constitutional obligation to annually update Congress, what began as a letter has turned into a televised spectacle that co-opts airtime on all major networks and cable news channels. Yet regardless of who is in office, many of the applause lines are the same: reducing our dependence of foreign oil, preventing the outsourcing of jobs, and stopping illegal immigration. The policies may change, but the concepts appear in almost every address this decade.

Now, on to this year’s speech. Rhetorically, it was not particularly memorable, which is unfortunate for a President who built his career largely on his amazing oratory skills.While it is expected that in a presidential election year the State of the Union will be tempered, a memorable line or two would have been nice. This year, President Obama started off with security issues, and in an intro likely to show up in his campaign ads this coming fall, he touted the withdrawal from Iraq and the death of Osama Bin Laden. Unsurprisingly, the President came off as a consummate centrist, often espousing conservative and liberal polices in the same sentence and a half. This was particularly stark when he spoke on immigration. He sounded almost Republican when he highlighted how his administration has put “more boots on the border” to prevent more illegal crossings.Yet, that sentiment was expressed almost simultaneously with that of supporting the creation of a path to citizenship for young adults raised as Americans who were brought to this country illegally as children.

There were also a few new initiatives announced, including a new trade force being created to fight counterfeit goods. The administration will also be pushing states on educational fronts, especially in order to change high dropout polices and requiring students to stay in school until they graduate or turn 18. Perhaps the biggest news, however, and interestingly out of place in a mostly centrist speech, Obama threw a major bone to the progressives who have been doubting him. The Justice Department will be launching an investigation into Wall Street and the practices that lead to the recession.

Warren Buffet’s assistant, Debbie Bosanek

As in all State of the Union addresses, those there watching were almost as important as the speech’s content. The administration made some very clear statements via the people invited to sit in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box. The audience included a young man who had been able to get cancer treatment because of health care reform, a woman who got a new job after being laid-off because of specialized job trading, and an employee from a manufacturing plant who transitioned from making yachts to high tech green batteries. However, the most ingenious strategic audience member was Warren Buffet’s assistant. Her presence not only stood in stark contrast to the CEOs seated in Speaker John Boehner’s box but also alluded to the oft repeated line that Warren Buffet should not pay less in taxes than his secretary.

All in all, this annual piece of political theater was not particularly memorable, but that won’t stop us from tuning in next year to see the 2012 victor’s speech.

Samantha is a junior at Barnard and the Editor-in-Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing

Images courtesy of 13 News and Yahoo News.

The Occupy Wall Street Cleanup

By Samantha Plotner

Thursday night, the Occupy Wall Street protesters faced eviction from Zuccotti Park, where they have been camped out for almost a month. Here is some documentation of the protestors’ efforts to clean up the park to avoid being thrown out the next morning. The morning brought good news, the New York Times reports. For now at least, the protesters will not be evicted from the park.

Everyone swept and collected trash, despite the rain.

The NYPD, lined up along the whole block.

Donated mops and brooms helped in the clean up effort.
An example of the “human microphone,” used as an intercom system in the park 
without the use of amplification.

Michele Bachmann and The Liberal Feminists’ Dilemma

By Samantha Plotner

American feminists have been striving for the United States to elect a female President for decades. The prominent feminist organization The White House Project even lists “[e]lecting a female President” among its goals. When Hillary Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination in 2008, activists around the country wondered, “will this finally be the year?” Alas, 2008 was not the year for a female presidential nominee, and Clinton lost the nomination to Barack Obama, who then continued on to win the general election. However, the 2012 Presidential Election cycle is challenging a belief that was always taken for granted: the first female President will be a liberal Democrat.

Queen of the Tea Party, Michele Bachmann

Enter Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Last semester, I did a rundown of the potential Republican nominees and Bachmann seemed like such a wild card—not even noteworthy. Yet, as the Republican field took shape this summer, Bachmann surprisingly emerged as a contender by winning the Iowa straw poll. The straw poll is a crucial poll among the party-faithful in Iowa, where the first caucus is held, and plays a large role in narrowing the Republican field. The winner of the straw poll frequently gains front-runner status, if only for a few weeks. This victory is in spite of Bachmann’s policies being virtually as far right as they can be on both social and fiscal issues, including supporting the idea of creating a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget. This goes along with rhetoric that heavily references her Christian faith and facts that she seems to make up on the spot (see her insistence that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation). However, in a Republican field full of politicians racing to prove how extreme they are, Bachmann’s candidacy is no longer a joke. The Tea Party is a major force in the Republican primaries this year and while their self-described “Mama Grizzly” is Sarah Palin, their Queen is Michele Bachmann.

Bachmann’s candidacy leaves many feminists torn. Is electing a female President such a victory if she is against many (if not most) of the movement’s beliefs? Bachmann is staunchly anti-abortion rights. She advocates stripping federal funding from Planned Parenthood (an organization she has called “the Lenscrafters of big abortion”). She strongly opposes President Obama’s healthcare plan, which includes several provisions to improve coverage for women, including providing birth control without co-pays. Also, Bachmann believes that all women should be submissive to their husbands. At a campaign event in 2006 she told the audience:

My husband said, now you need to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law. Tax law? I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord said “Be submissive. Wives you are to be submissive to your husband.” And so we moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, and I went to William and Mary Law School there for a post-doctorate degree in tax law. And I pursued this course of study. Never had a tax course in my background, never had a desire for it, but by faith, I was going to be faithful to what I felt God was calling me to do through my husband.

Some political consultants seem to think women will vote for ANY woman just because she is a woman. For example, John McCain picking Sarah Palin as his running mate could easily be interpreted as an attempt to attract disillusioned Hillary Clinton supporters after she lost the primary, despite the fact Palin and Clinton agree on almost nothing politically. Could liberal feminists bring themselves to vote for a candidate who goes against everything they stand for just because she is a woman? Personally, I don’t think so. The principles of the movement are more important than the goal of electing a female President.

Samantha Plotner is a junior at Barnard and the Editor-in-Chief of The Nine Ways of Knowing. She is majoring in Political Science and Human Rights Studies.

Photo courtesy of michelebachmannforpresidentin2012.blogspot.com