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Mutilation a double standard

(03/30/12 4:00am)

As a writer I try to stray from response column — normally it feels like selling out to journalism, that rather than come up with a point on my own doing, I would take someone else’s argument and counter it. The column in question came from an issue of The Daily Targum last week — not the Tuesday column, as rebutting that would be the intellectual equal of my 6-foot-4 self playing basketball with toddlers — too easy #dunkcity — on Friday, March 23, “Denounce Genital Mutilation.” My problem lies not with the theme of the column. I, like most people of sound minds, find the genital mutilation of baby girls — particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia — despicable and disgusting. My problem is that the argument doesn’t go far enough.


Settling the ‘peesh’ problem

(02/29/12 5:00am)

Two recent pieces in The Daily Targum shed light on a subset of the worldwide population neither well-represented nor well-researched. I am speaking, of course, about peeshes, of which a large portion of this school may be categorized. “Peesh” is the vernacular term to describe a nice person with nothing to talk about, and the author remarked in his Feb. 17 column, “A Problem of ‘Peeshiness,’” they are also known as a “shween” once across the Pennsylvanian border. I was extremely excited upon my first read-through of the column. The term “peesh” has been commonplace in my vocabulary for quite some time, and to see it broach the vernacular in my alma mater makes me extremely proud, both as an early proponent for the word and a big fan of expansion of the English language.


Remembering Christopher Hitchens

(02/10/12 5:00am)

The writer Christopher Eric Hitchens, affectionately known as “Hitch” to those who knew him or his works, passed away from esophageal cancer on Dec. 15, 2011. I was in Atlantic City at the time, unwinding from a night of poker and blackjack and sitting on the bed of my Harrah’s hotel room sipping Johnnie Walker Black Label, Hitchens’ favorite drink. I remember distinctly — despite the Black Label coursing its rich flavor into my liver — the sinking feeling in my stomach as I let out a small sigh. In an instant, I went from unbridled joy, drinking and gambling in one of America’s dens of iniquity, to a feeling of personal loss for a man I had never met, nor even seen in person. And except for in online atheist communities, his death was but a passing note in obituaries and on television. Hitchens wasn’t exactly an appeaser of the public. Some of his best-known works include a scathing account of Mother Teresa’s work in India and a little book titled “God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.” However, the man’s legacy is far greater than was accounted for.


Philly fans stay loyal no matter what

(11/16/11 5:00am)

The life of the Philadelphia sports fan is riddled with hardships, pains, embarrassments, shame, joy, love and mostly frustration. Each one has stories to tell and an unshakable sense of belonging to a nation of sorts with a collective identity, language and social norms that sometimes clash with modern society. Their devotion to the city draws attention and criticism far and wide — particularly their dogged, relentless hatred of rival players and teams, with a no-holds-barred attitude toward public disapproval of said rivals. Without a doubt, Philadelphia fans are a spectacle to behold in their natural habitat, a land where national history meets “Joe Blow,” where cheese steaks are a source of geographic pride and all inhabitants maintain that Philadelphia is the best city in the United States, despite any evidence to the contrary. Although detached from Philadelphia in my South Jersey home and without ample sports coverage in this area for constant upkeep, I remain part of this entity. Upon returning to Philadelphia this weekend to witness the debacle of a football game, I was reluctantly reintroduced to the overbearing, nagging spouse of Philadelphia sports — disappointment. And as in so many awful British sitcoms, disappointment showed up with a frying pan in hand.


Obama’s opponents have flaws

(11/02/11 4:00am)

With the election year rolling ever closer and Republican primaries scattering about our television networks and into our daily conversation, it is critical to take an unbiased look at the climate for American politics and make decisions regarding for whom each citizen will vote. President Barack Obama is ending his first term in office with low numbers in the poll. Only three candidates from the Republican Party are truly noteworthy in any sense: Mitt Romney, Herman Cain and Rick Perry. Michele Bachmann’s poll numbers are incredibly low, beating only Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman in the polls. Ron Paul has again proven himself nearly unelectable with his absurd social policies and radical economic policies — this is the man who said he would immediately overturn Roe v. Wade if elected. Newt Gingrich, by the way, is a half-ton of clearly partisan politics in a 400-pound bag, who has openly stated that he doesn’t care who wins as long as Obama is out of office. As such, I will focus on Obama and the top three candidates from the Republican Party.


US must abandon death penalty

(10/19/11 4:00am)

Capital punishment has long been a controversial issue in the United States. There are currently 34 districts that have outlawed via legislation the application of capital punishment in any case, including aggravated murder. However, some states, like Texas, continue to employ the death penalty for criminals and add cases in which capital punishment may be applicable. There are certainly positive and negative aspects to the death penalty, which will be explained later, but it is in the opinion of this author that the death penalty is a clear violation of the Eighth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” The United States cannot continue executing prisoners if it wishes to progress further in humanitarian terms, especially while acting as global arbiter for human rights violations.


See flaws in protestors’ methods

(10/05/11 4:00am)

The occupation of Wall Street is going substantially uncovered by major media outlets, causing some understandable outrage in protestors. More than 700 arrests were made on Sunday, as the protest made its way to the Brooklyn Bridge, and activists were arrested for blocking streets and disorderly conduct. The protest has only become larger as the days wear on and gained celebrity support from liberal voices like Roseanne Barr, Michael Moore and Lupe Fiasco. However, outlets like Yahoo News and The New York Times remain cautious to report on it, and it has drawn the literary ire of more conservative news sources like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal. There are a few reasons why the protest has received harsh criticisms and limited media coverage, and frankly, most of them are justified.


Racial diversity benefits schools

(09/21/11 4:00am)

A commentary entitled “Move toward colorblind society,” published in The Daily Targum on Monday made the bizarre claim that affirmative action has a negative effect on the American educational policy and that racial affiliation — i.e. identifying yourself at least partially by your race — prevents national harmony or at least creates some form of social discord. The idea of “[regarding] race as a superficial characteristic akin to hair color or height” is a noble goal in theory, but it undeniably bears the stamp of the “white man’s burden.” It is easy for those in the normative white race to dismiss race as an arbitrary, differentiating characteristic in society. However, the assertion that the author makes directly contradicts the right that all have to identify with a people, a shared history and an ongoing fight against social, legislative and systemic discrimination.


Free speech applies to everyone

(09/07/11 4:00am)

Our First Amendment grants us four unalienable rights as Americans — the freedom of press, the freedom to public assembly, the freedom of religion and, of course, the freedom of speech. Our freedoms allow us a certain level of comfort and ease when communicating our thoughts and beliefs. There are certainly some limitations on free speech. The United States has laws against slander and libel, wherein the speaking party may be arrested or punished if the statement is made with malicious intent, deliberately false information or the intent to defame the person. One needs only to look at Supreme Court cases like New York Times Co. v. Sullivan to see how free speech can be scathing without defaming or malicious. Gitlow v. New York is another case that shows how free speech can be limited if it is dangerous to the state, or seditious in matter.


Burqa, niqab ban makes sense

(04/26/11 4:00am)

Recently France put into effect a law that bans the public wearing of the niqab and burqa, two facial coverings used by conservative Muslim women, and began arresting and prosecuting women who wear the veils. To briefly paraphrase the law, women are being arrested because the facial coverings are a new form of religious enslavement that oppresses the civil rights deserved by and granted to French citizens by their government. The debate is centered on one question: Does a government that fights for and protects the freedoms of its citizens maintain the right to apply law to personal dress choices in an effort to legalize what their constitution would deem is "right" for them?


RUPA acted democratically

(04/12/11 4:00am)

The Oxford dictionary defines democracy as "a system of government by the whole population or all eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives." The basis for democracy lies in participation of the general public, and the opinion held by the most voters will eventually be implemented. It is possible for this system to fail the intelligentsia of a population or the needs of a country. One need only look at the election of Hamas in Palestine, which drew criticism from Israel and the United States, or the 2000 and 2004 elections of George W. Bush as president of the United States, which drew criticisms internationally and among the liberals in the country. The resounding result of subjectively unfortunate elections is "tough cookies." At the end of the election, the result was final and left those who did not participate scratching their heads.


GOP backs poor candidates

(03/29/11 4:00am)

With the recent presidential announcements of Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Donald Trump, it's quite possible that the Republican Party is quickly approaching the threshold for ridiculous. While it is true that these three have only "unofficially declared" their intentions to run, it seems they have all intention of putting together serious campaigns. Some more "serious" candidates in contention — Tim Pawlenty, former governor of Minnesota, and Fred Karger, a gay activist from California — have already announced they will run for the candidacy in the primaries. By all means, Pawlenty is a serious-seeming candidate with a shot of winning the candidacy. Karger is a qualified political consultant and would also, if he were to win the candidacy, be the first openly gay presidential candidate. Ironically he would be running on the ticket for the political party that has worked almost tirelessly to suppress other gays' rights to marriage in recent memory. That's a topic for a different day, though.


Arab world desires freedom

(02/21/11 5:00am)

The United States has been engaged in a multi-front war in Afghanistan and Iraq since Sept. 11, 2001, mainly to hunt down Osama bin Laden and exact retaliation for the terrorist attacks that killed over 3,000 people in the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the downed plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. Then-president George W. Bush further explained the affront by affirming that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that our military presence would ensure a rapid influx of democracy. Actual background research into Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi — fittingly codenamed "Curveball" — brought to light that the intelligence he presented to Bush's cabinet concerning weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was entirely fabricated, and that al-Janabi himself was nothing more than a con artist and habitual liar. But at least we were spreading freedom, right?


Understand before accusing

(02/07/11 5:00am)

BAKA: Students United for Middle Eastern Justice held an event a week ago entitled "Never Again for Anyone," which planned to shed light on the injustices faced by Palestinians in the frame of horrible injustices done to Jews in the Holocaust. The panel included two Holocaust survivors who intended to share the message that the atrocities committed in the Holocaust should not be forgotten or isolated from history, but rather remembered and kept in mind so that such events never happen again to anyone — hence the title. As is almost necessary in today's Israel-Palestine conversation, mistakes were made and problems were blown out of proportion until the situation reached and passed a threshold and entered the realm of prejudice. While the event organizer's choice to impose a $5 fee — which was outside of BAKA's control — the resulting hoopla brought more negative attention and contempt for opposing sides than the event alone would have originally created. The ensuing xenophobia and racial or religious slurs thrown at University students from protestors — who were mostly non-students — created an enormous debacle.


Religious rhetoric divides all

(01/24/11 5:00am)

Religion is and has been a polarizing force in American and international politics. It has served as a source of inspiration, a moral compass and a guide of living for millions. It has also served as a means of destruction, death, slaughter and discrimination. Some of you may remember that last semester I penned an article regarding the mistaken aspirations of atheists like myself. The following may seem hypocritical, but after a few events over break and reading the Jan. 20 column in "The Daily Targum" titled "Anti-Semitism Exists Today," I feel it needs to be said. Christopher Hitchens was right when he posited that religion poisons everything.


Embrace Julian Assange as hero

(12/07/10 5:00am)

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was arrested yesterday morning. He has been refused bail for fear of fleeing the country and that his life will be taken by a political radical. The recent leaks, which have shown the United States to be less-than-reputable in some takes of international politics, have sparked debate, focusing mostly on whether the truth about politics is worth running the risk of American diplomats losing credibility in the realm of international relations. The answer is unequivocally yes.


Atheism does not define amorality

(11/15/10 5:00am)

Religion, particularly the Christian religion, has been a long-standing American tradition. Christianity — along with apple pie, democracy, being white, baseball, and freedom — have for a long time been the faces of America as depicted in the minds of most politicians and demagogues. In recent decades, Judaism, and in some cases, Islam, have garnered the same respect among fellow believers in an Abrahamic God. Hatred and bigotry still do exist towards these groups, but in most cases, a belief in God seems sufficient enough to cement a person's values and moral foundation. Yes, atheists are godless, but immoral? That seems a bit much, especially in a land that was founded and settled in on the basis of religious freedom — which of course would rationally include the freedom to not believe.


Middle Eastern peace relies on moderate views

(11/09/10 5:00am)

The letter titled "Ideology poses as scholarship at Brandeis U.," in Monday's The Daily Targum is another poorly constructed and illogical smear campaign on support of Palestinians in colleges across the nation. However, the author's attack on "social justice" campaigns throughout America comes off as decidedly racist in origin. The letter highlighted Brandeis University's week to recognize Israeli's occupation of Palestine, and he argues the recent willingness of today's youth to partake in "social justice" is either open or thinly veiled anti-Semitism. This position is further highlighted by the title of the Boston University professor's recent book "Genocidal Liberalism: The University's Jihad against Israel & Jews."


We cannot repeat voting errors

(11/03/10 4:00am)

I am, among many things, a fairly liberal Democrat. I feel that anyone who has read one of my past columns would clearly be able to connect the dots and reach that conclusion. I have a certain view of the world, of America and of the state. If presented with new information, I have no problem with altering my view to align itself best with the facts at hand. There are many like me in this country, especially at a fairly liberal state school like the University. However, there is one thing that sets me apart from people who feel as strongly as I do in the realm of politics.


Re-evaluate war on drugs

(10/18/10 4:00am)

The war on drugs in the United States will celebrate its 39th birthday as a part of official political vernacular in less than a month. The ongoing prohibition of psychedelic drugs is now more than a century old. The phrase has been used by politicians left and right who want to seem tough on crime without much thought to its roots and the means of "winning" this war. In the 39 years that the war has been official, arrest rates have soared, prisons have become overcrowded and tougher laws have been passed to ban drug trafficking and punish users. So the U.S. government is clearly winning the war on drugs, right?