Blogger Voices: “Mazel Tov, Obama”

Congratulations Obama

In Jewish tradition, when a boy turns thirteen he is called to read Torah in front of his family and friends, and in doing so, he becomes a man. He becomes someone who can shoulder adult responsibility. But, this is all lies. Voice cracks and braces overshadow the transition to adulthood, and so that pinnacle turning point remains a mystery. When does a boy become a man? Simple, when he cuts the bullsh*t.

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Likewise, last night, Barack Obama became the President of the United States. President Obama, despite the jeers and sometimes absent applauses, shouldered his responsibility and asked us to do the same. Last night, Obama cut the bullsh*t (for the most part) and thank God for that. He resembled the anomalous Jewish boy who experienced puberty before his Bar Mitzvah rather than after. Yes, he checked boxes off the public servant list, but he did so with a suave sternness that galvanized some Republicans to at least contemplate standing.

Don’t let Boehner’s Botoxed expression fool you; he’s just jealous his wife isn’t as hot as Mrs. Biden. Every party has petty people who assume the superior position as “observer“ and self-bequeath the right to judge those they spectate, and last night, the Republicans sat and watched. Of course that’s only their poor justification for why no has asked them to dance. Crossing the aisle requires participants, not spectators, and if the Republicans refuse to compromise then we are condemned to externalizing our prepubescent fears of rejection.

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address

Time and time again, thirteen-year-old boys have had to face their peers (invited by one’s parents without one’s consent) in a uniquely embarrassing ritual in the naïve hope of becoming a man, and in the end, the bullies and nerve-wracking cuties alike congratulate the boy out of respect for the ritual. The United States too holds itself to a holy ritual – that of democracy.

In last night’s address, Obama asked that we bear the weight of that platform in mind, because in moments where we may lose respect for one another we can reorient ourselves through the respect we owe our country. Obama acknowledged the bipartisanship of this country, because non-partisanship would be like an atheist Bar Mitzvah. Someone has to believe in something to sanctify the ritual in which they partake.

So when Obama inched closer to the podium ready to engage the congressmen before him, he did something somewhat unprecedented: Obama cut the bullsh*t (once again, for the most part). With regard to partisanship, Obama is not colorblind. Our ritual requires the vibrancy of the blues and reds we celebrate and purpling Congress will not make us stronger. Democracy breeds contention with the long-term goal of consensus. However, gridlock is not inevitable. Obama prescribed a new technique for Congress: rather than going backwards, try working backwards. Begin with the fundamental values both sides share because only from that origin do we honor the ritual that frames us.

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During the State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama poked holes in our binary understanding of America. Obama took a humble step back and outlined the often-missed big picture: if we don’t respect the ritual than we are nothing more than a prepubescent boy publicly committing social suicide.

Photos: Google Images, whitehouse.gov

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: ISIS Competes in Middle Eastern Monopoly

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The longest Monopoly game in history lasted for 70 straight days, and in those 70 days, green houses, red hotels and social lives were lost. The names of the incredibly bored record-setters are not disclosed, but their legacy, unfortunately, lives on. Today, the ISIS – “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” – seeks to break their record one Sunni enclave at a time.

The Battlefield
The Battlefield

The game-changing round of Monopoly occurring in the Middle East today comes at a much higher cost than play money. In this “game,” ISIS made the first move, and their offensive strategy has since left Iraqi minorities and American officials on the defensive.

ISIS is a Sunni jihadist group in the Middle East that spiraled from al-Qaeda, originally an Iraqi insurgency group that formed in reaction to American-led forces following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. Similar to its parent organization al-Qaeda, which has since cut ties with ISIS, ISIS identifies as a caliphate: an Islamic state under the jurisdiction of a supreme religious and political leader. With Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi serving as the caliphate (supreme leader) of the Islamic state, ISIS has the rudimentary organizational structure needed to forecast plans of expansion.

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However, before the ISIS can fulfill its goal of an extremist Muslim monopoly of the Middle East, it must begin by consolidating political control over the Muslim-inhabited regions of Iraq and Syria. ISIS initially sought to establish a caliphate in Sunni-majority regions of Iraq, but last year’s Syrian Civil War paved immediate inroads for establishing the caliphate in Syria as well. After both Iraq and Syria are consolidated under Islamic State leadership, the Islamic State will be able to pursue control over the historic region of “Levant,” which includes: Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus, and parts of Turkey. Building this monopoly will be a step-by-step process, but the United States and its allies hope this game ends with Iraq and Syria.

In June of this year, ISIS had 4,000 fighters in Iraq, destroying government and military targets in addition to taking the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. This August, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claimed that ISIS has expanded to 30,000 fighters in Iraq and 50,000 fighters in Syria. Due to this expansion and other variables, Chuck Hagel, U.S. Secretary of Defense, believes that [ISIS] “poses a long-term threat” (ABC News).

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U.S. officials both fear and acknowledge the likelihood that this Monopoly match might outlast the 70-day record.  The crisis thus far has developed along two fronts: first, as a humanitarian disaster against Iraqi religious/ethnic minorities, and second, as a threat to the Iraqi Kurdish meta-state, a longtime U.S. ally. The Yazidi’s, who inhabit the Nineveh Province of Northern Iraq, chronicle a tragic history as victims of Sunni-led persecution – some would argue “genocide.” Whether by fundamentalist revolutionaries, followers of Saddam Hussein or today’s ISIS, the Yazidi’s are perpetually victimized in serial Sunni attempts to rid Iraq and its neighbors of non-Islamic influences. Together, these two fronts provided the United States with an irresistible invitation to deal in and ante up.

In response to the humanitarian crisis, the U.S. has airdropped supplies to the Yazidi’s cut off in northwestern Iraq and is in the midst of deliberating whether to make similar airdrops to the northern Iraqi town of Amerli – inhabited by Iraq’s Turkmen minority – which has been under siege by IS (Islamic State) militants for over two months. Militarily, the U.S. has supplied arms and ammunition to the Kurdish peshmerga forces and has implemented airstrikes against IS forces.

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The short-term goal of the United States is to prevent additional IS advances via airstrikes and aid to peshmerga forces. Long-term, the Obama administration hopes to establish a viable Iraqi state. But with mounting pressure from his military leaders, Obama and his two-pronged strategy might be cornered into more big-picture goals for the Middle East. If Syria extends its own irresistible invitation for U.S. involvement, the game plan will have to change.

In this “Fast-dealing [extremist Muslim, political consolidation] game,” the Obama administration has limited get-out-of-jail cards, Monopoly money, and patience. What will the United States do when its their turn? Stay tuned.

Sources: hasbro.com, U.S. News & World Report, ABC News, New York Times

Photos: Google

Hippie Hoyas: Free People Will Open in Fino Italiano Spot

Free People

Whether you identify as hippie, hipster or simply hip, all Hoyas can look forward to the opening of the we-made-mainstream-uncool fashion franchise, Free People, at 3009 M St. NW. The storefront housed Italian restaurant Fino Italiano until Sept. 2012, when it closed in Georgetown and moved to the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood. Where you once enjoyed Bolognese sauce, you’ll soon be shopping for bohemian looks.

Free People, an offshoot of parent company Urban Outfitters, serves as the bohemian cousin to Urban. At the same time, both stores work to make sure things that were cool in third grade, such as fanny packs and colorful tights, become fashion statements for young adults.

Hippie Heaven
Hippie Heaven

Welcome to M Street, Free People. It looks like Georgetown is shaking its preppy reputation one oversized sweater at a time.

Special thanks to Georgetown Metropolitan for this article.

Photos: Google, highlyrelevant.com

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: #CancelColbert

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Last week, The Colbert Report inadvertently invited criticism from Suey Park, a 23 year-old Twitter activist. Her fervent tweeting and the resulting trend, #CancelColbert, attracted national attention and confirmed that tweeting and twerking are the ticket to fame for our generation.

The episode of The Colbert Report under scrutiny responded to Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins, who created a foundation to support Native Americans instead of changing the infamous name of his 82 year-old team. Snyder established the “Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation” as a scrambled attempt to recognize the history of injustice, discrimination and racism toward Native Americans. He claimed this marked the beginning of an effort to value and celebrate the heritage and history of Native Americans. It remains to be seen whether or not Snyder’s actions will overpower the effect of the offensive team name. While we wait, Stephen Colbert has taken matters into his own hands.

To the writers of The Colbert Report, Snyder’s NFL peace treaty was another opportunity to exploit a feeble attempt at diplomacy. As Colbert stated, “[It’s OK] because Redskins is not offensive if you only use it once in your name.” With that, Snyder became a whole new level of laughable.

Snyder’s foundation inspired Colbert to reexamine his own hypocrisies humorously. Colbert’s on-camera persona has an old friend and comedy bit named “Ching-Chong Ding-Dong.” Ching-Chong Ding-Dong epitomizes several Asian-American stereotypes, and his presence leads to many jokes about karate, rice or broken English.

Colbert decided that Ching-Chong Ding-Dong, like his racial slur counterpart the Redskin, needed his own foundation. “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever” was created to shine a light on the irony of using a racial epithet in the name of a foundation meant to assist those put down by that epithet.

Things were taken to a whole new level, however, when The Colbert Report‘s Twitter account ran the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong joke without any giving context about Dan Snyder or the new Washington Redskins foundation. Note: Colbert does not operate from this Twitter account, and the Tweet in question has since been taken down.

Park, inventor of the #notyourAsiansidekick hashtag, saw the out of context tweet and called to #CancelColbert after the previously mentioned episode. “Asian Media Watch” also called to #CancelColbert because of the racist characterization of Ching-Chong Ding-Dong. Park’s hashtag went viral, and the American news media went wild.

Make a contribution today at www.sorrynotsorry.com
Make a contribution today at www.sorrynotsorry.com

Park has received little tangible support for her #CancelColbert campaign. With her political power atrophying by the minute, Park has subsequently stepped back her campaign. When Jay Caspian King interviewed Park, she admitted that her hashtag was not a tunnel-visioned mission to cancel The Colbert Report, but rather a defense against “well-intentioned racial humor … [that] doesn’t actually do anything to end racism.”

Park’s tweets have inspired American journalists to reexamine shows like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show to determine whether satire and sarcasm veil genuine American racism or if equal opportunity prejudice really makes it all OK.

The best part of comedy is that when it bends, it’s funny, but when it breaks, it’s not. But have Americans been so desensitized to bending jokes that they can no longer recognize when it breaks?

Colbert: 1 #CancelColbert: Go home.
He told you so.

Colbert’s loyal followers believe that offensive stingers are all part of the shtick of political comedy. After all, Colbert is no stranger to pushing the boundaries of politics and humor. Every Monday through Thursday when the clock strikes 11:30 p.m., someone will probably get offended. If not, Colbert just wouldn’t be Colbert.

Update: Colbert has since responded to the #CancelColbert madness. Check out his response.

 

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: Why Does Venezuela Need Saving?

On Valentine’s Day, when American college students were spending time with their significant others and watching “House of Cards,” Venezuelan students stormed the streets of Caracas with the common battle cry “#SOSVENEZUELA” in protest of their government.

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Student protests in Caracas

However, not all students studying at American universities were sitting idly by — especially not at Georgetown. Last night, 4E had the opportunity to interview Georgetown student Alberto Alfonzo (SFS ’17), a proud Venezuelan and political activist, on the current situation in his country. Before we begin our portion with Alfonzo, let’s explore what these protests are all about.

The last presidential election took place in April following the death of the former Venezuelan leader, Hugo Chavez. Since then, there have been uprisings in the streets of Venezuela. These demonstrations have swept through the neighborhoods of other political strongholds within the country and internationally, including in Washington, D.C.

Venezuela’s last election was a close call — some might even say too close — which has created distrust in the electoral system and has spurred demands for a ballot recount. However, the current president-in-power, Nicolás Maduro, has denied all recount requests.

Under Maduro’s leadership, Venezuela has sunk more deeply into a social and economic crisis. Class warfare has risen to unprecedented levels as the socialist government has dismissed opponents and written them off as fascists who only work for personal gain. The political unrest and economic tumult have incited a powerful response.

Such a response is nothing new in the course of Venezuelan history. Alfonzo informed 4E that in Venezuela, Feb. 12 marks “The Day of the Youth,” which honors the preteens and teenagers who died in the Battle of La Victoria during the Venezuelan War of Independence in February 1814.

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D.C. protesters outside the OAS Building

When asked why students seemed to be at the center of the Venezuelan uprisings, Alonzo simply responded, “I don’t know. … It’s what they have always done.” He later described the “Generation of ’28,” a group of students who effectively ousted the dictator then in power, Juan Vicente Gómez, after protests in 1928.  Today, Alfonzo helps lead fellow Georgetown students and Venezuelans alike in protest of the regime in power.

Are we on the cusp of a Generation of ’13? Alfonzo believes the odds are unlikely: “The road to recovery, if paved correctly, will be long and arduous.” Otherwise, he said, “It wouldn’t be truly democratic and anything less than that would cause history to repeat itself.”

Alberto Alfonzo holds a #SOSVENEZUELA sign  in support of student protesters.
Alberto Alfonzo (SFS ’17) holds a #SOSVENEZUELA sign in support of student protesters.

On Feb. 19, Alfonzo and several Hoyas ventured downtown to the Organization of American States (OAS) building in Washington, D.C., to protest the current situation in Venezuela. When asked about his actions, Alfonzo responded that he hoped they would lead to international involvement. “We are far away, but we’re not absent. Venezuelans are calling on international institutions to act,” he said. “We want them to react.”

Thus far, four students have died protesting in Venezuela — two in Caracas and two outside the city. The stakes for speaking out are high, but when put into context with the the situation, Alfonzo feels it’s “not only my duty, but what I want to do as a Venezuelan.”

Photos: Harper Weissburg/The Hoya; Courtesy Alberto Alfonzo

Who’s Your TV Character Valentine?

tv valentineSometimes fake people are better than real people. When that happens, you sometimes find yourself hopelessly devoted to a TV character. 4E wants you to know that it is OK for that to happen, and in fact, we even encourage it. This Valentine’s Day, it’s time to show some love to the men and women who make our hearts race, ruin our GPAs and keep us up all night long.

10. Jim Halpert from “The Office” He is a rare, endangered species: a sexy paper salesman.

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 9. Khaleesi from “Game of Thrones” She’ll whisper gibberish death threats into your ear, but you’ll still dig it.

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8. Don Draper from “Mad Men” He’s a misogynistic class act who makes you yearn for simpler times, or at least a time when people dressed like Donny.

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7. Phil from “Modern Family” His idea of a perfect Valentine is a woman with a 12-year-old’s idea of a good time.

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6. Leslie Knope from “Parks and Recreation” Sorry folks, Leslie is unavailable this Feb. 14 due to a hangover from Galentine’s Day.

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5. Walter White from “Breaking Bad” Only if you’re feeling dangerous.

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4. Sheldon Cooper from “Big Bang Theory” He’ll blow (up) your mind.

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 3. Dr. McDreamy from “Grey’s Anatomy” It’s a beautiful day to save lives. You? Me? Elevator?

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2. Olivia Pope from “Scandal” Her Valentine is found at the bottom of a glass of Merlot after a hard day of being better than you.

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10. Barney Stinson from “How I Met Your Mother” Forget Valentine’s Day. With Barney Stinson every day is legen — wait for it — dary.

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You may never meet these mythological creatures, but here’s hoping! Cheers to finding love (real or fake), Hoyas!

Photo: https://good4utv.blogspot.com Gifs: https://giphy.com/search

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: Vlad’s Games

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EST on NBC, the world will discover that Sochi is a real place. World-class athletes from almost 100 different nations will participate in an event first held 3,000 years ago in Olympia, Greece. Although today we use the Olympics to celebrate the gods among men rather than the gods themselves, the Olympics remain the lynchpin of the international sporting community.

sochi-2014-logoHowever, it’s not all about luging — but if it were, I wouldn’t complain. Time and time again the Olympics have provided a platform for political revolution and revelation. By hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia has invited international criticism of many fronts.

In the late 1800s, Sochi was home to the genocide of the Circassian people — historically Sunni Muslims in North Caucus — who today, still united as a global Circassian community, protest Russia’s hosting the games on the grounds that Russia never apologized for its wrongdoing.

Protest for LGBT rights in Russia, London, Britain - 10 Aug 2013

The criticisms don’t end there. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, a “Pride House” was instituted to welcome LGBT athletes, but this year, the Russian Ministry of Justice shot down the idea of a “Pride House” for the 2014 Games, claiming that creating one would incite “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation which can undermine the security of the Russian society and the state and provoke social-religious hatred, which is the feature of the extremist character of the activity.”

The safety of LGBT athletes in the Sochi games has been hotly contested and brought to the forefront of the international community; just recently, Vladimir Putin signed into a law a series of “anti-gay” laws that challenge the protection the Olympic Charter provides for members and supporters of the LGBT community.

In addition, reporters arriving at the games have described stunning conditions in Sochi: unsafe drinking water, unfinished buildings and the “elimination” of stray dogs from the city. In other words, everything’s a hot mess.

t-A-T-u-tatu-23149208-800-600The silver lining? Russia has spent $51 million on tonight’s opening ceremonies, featuring none other than the R-Pop stars t.a.T.u. Stay tuned!

Photo: newnextnow.com, logodesignlove.com, mylondondiary.co.uk

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: State of the Union

polisciOn Jan. 19, 55.9 million “Joe Six Packs” watched the Seattle Seahawks triumph over the San Francisco 49ers and earn their seat at the 2014 Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos.

Last night, Jan. 28, President Obama delivered his annual State of the Union address – a tradition coined by former President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934 as the “Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union” – to a whopping audience of 30 million (probably students earning extra credit in social studies). The State of the Union address began under President George Washington to ensure the transparency and accountability of the executive branch, and it is now used to test the ability of the vice president (Joe Biden) and speaker of the House (John Boehner) to stay awake. I kid.

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In case you missed yesterday’s State of the Union, 4E is here to fill you in with the President’s major points (with a few jokes laced throughout):

Jobs: “Insourcing” is the new outsourcing, just like “Scandal” is the new “West Wing” (not sorry about it). Obama aims to co-invest with American businesses in American-made technologies and rewrite tax laws that make outsourcing feasible.

Housing: President Obama is handing over $15 billion to create new construction jobs and to help recover foreclosed properties.

Minimum Wage: Things are looking good for entry level workers: The president proposed a federal minimum wage increase from $7.25 to $9 by the end of 2015 with adjustments according to inflation.

Gun Control: Background checks and mental health services are part of Obama’s plan to combat gun violence.

Afghanistan: 34,000 U.S. Military forces are coming home.

Immigration: President Obama wants new legal citizens, and he’s willing to develop new pathways to achieve it, but until then, the 11 million immigrants in the U.S. … can wait? Work? But not illegally!

The Ladies: Obama stated that all American women should be protected and promised to investigate and prosecute instances of sexual assault or domestic violence under the Violence Against Women Act.

Early Childhood Education: The executive hopes to make preschool available to children of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

Trade: Hey European Union … lemme get wit you …

Federal Budget: We’re aiming at a $4 trillion deficit reduction, but take a load off, we gave ourselves 10 years to reach that number.

Energy/Climate Change: The plan is to implement tax credits on the production of renewable energy sources.

Education: Mo’ high quality high schools means mo’ college students … and mo’ money … and mo’ problems? Or maybe just more education.

Well, that’s the SOTU in a nutshell for you. For a more detailed analysis of last night’s speech, head here. In the meantime, keep checking in for the next installment of Poli Sci for the Average Guy.

Photo: politico.com

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: Chris Christie’s Big Ole “Really?”

polisciWe all thought it would be yesterday’s news already, but the question has only seemed to gain momentum: Is Chris Christie responsible for the George Washington Bridge Scandal? As of late, the New Jersey state government has subpoenaed 20 potential perpetrators and participants (many of whom are members of Christie’s administration) in the scandal for the Assembly’s investigative committee. All those subpoenaed, including Christie’s incoming chief of staff, will be expected to testify in the coming weeks to bring this hot scandal to a close.

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So far it seems like a lose-lose situation. The people of “New Joisy” lost three hours of their lives that could’ve been spent feeling inferior to New Yorkers (I kid), and Chris Christie is slowly but surely losing his legitimacy as a potential Republican Party presidential candidate. But, does anyone win?

Why, yes! Remember the Mormon Republican with the five kids, the five point plan and the five shades of gray in his hair he deviously tries to hide? Well, Mitt Romney (former Republican presidential candidate) has profited ideologically from Christie’s charade. Christie forbade Romney from raising money for his campaign in the state of New Jersey, and let’s just say between that and Christie’s wishy-washy response to his possible vice presidential nomination, Romney is laughing somewhere five times. Perhaps the “big government moderate” doesn’t have what it takes… Apparently he showed up late to the Grand Ole Party due to traffic.

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 As always, stay tuned for the latest installment of Poli Sci for the Average Guy.

Photos: politicalcartoons.com, conservativenews.me

Poli Sci for the Average Guy: Christie’s Jam Recipe

polisciChris Christie, the (usually) reputable, Republican Governor of New Jersey (and likely 2016 presidential candidate) has found himself in a bit of a jam. What did he do? We’re actually not entirely sure. But his staffers did do the worst thing people ever could do: They created a traffic jam (GASP!) on the route linking northern New Jersey to New York City. The jam created a sticky situation for all.

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Governor Christie’s (now former) deputy chief of staff has been accused of “endorsing the mysterious closure of several lanes of traffic in Fort Lee, N.J., as retaliation against the Fort Lee mayor for not supporting the governor’s reelection.” (If proven true, Christie’s red party might hit a major red light politically.) Critics of Christie have referred to the fiasco as “Bridgegate,” a pun on the infamous Watergate scandal. Is Christie the next Nixon, the-I-didn’t-do-that-oh-wait-I-did-that-oh-shoot-now-I-have-to-resign-from-presidency-president … or will he successfully dodge this political bullet and continue down the campaign trail?

christienom1Christie’s response to the whole charade has remained a persistent denial of his connection to the poor traffic control that took place. However, recently leaked emails from Christie aides have led Americans  – Republicans and Democrats alike – to question the honesty of this budding political leader. One such email sent from Christie’s then-deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly read: “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” and was sent to Port Authority official David Wildstein, a Christie ally, on Aug. 13, 2013.

Kelly has since been dismissed, and Christie recently announced that he was “embarrassed and humiliated” by the actions of his staffers involved in the scandal. The U.S. attorney in New Jersey has also launched an official investigation into the matter.

With the traffic cleared up and the scandal getting foggier, two important questions remain: Was Christie himself tied to the traffic jam? And, more importantly, did Bill Clinton have sexual relations with that woman?

Photos: cagle.com