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By Kobi Azoulay
Thanksgiving is a time to gather around with your family, discuss what you are thankful for, eat some turkey and sing Christmas carols.
Everyone knows that singing Christmas carols is an activity better suited for after Thanksgiving, but lately Christmas has been encroaching on Turkey Day’s territory.
This phenomenon has been exacerbated by the fact that stores around the United States begin rolling out their Christmas merchandise earlier and earlier every year. [Read more…]
By Kobi Azoulay
The increase in ISIL coverage within the mainstream media, beginning with the alleged downing of a Russian plane, continuing with the Paris attacks and now reaching a new high in America with the San Bernardino shooting, has many Americans on-edge.
Unfortunately, those attacks have sparked a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, with Republican Presidential Frontrunner Donald Trump serving as the derogatory messenger.
First, he said he would “strongly consider” closing down mosques, before shifting his position to adding surveillance to them. Then a few days later, he announced that he was open to the idea of a database of all Muslims in America.
The public outrage sparked by those ideas was nothing compared to his latest proposal: temporarily ban all Muslims from immigrating or travelling into the country.
“We want to be very fair, but too many bad things are happening and the percentage of true hatred is too great,” Trump said.
Even though prominent Republicans like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz, and RNC Chairman Reince Priebus have come out strongly against the ban, the Republican base is not as concerned.
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 38 percent of Republican primary voters support the Muslim ban, while 39 percent are opposed.
Considering the latest national poll from those news sites has Trump at 27 percent support among those same voters, his anti-Muslim proposal has not hurt him and there is even room for his support to grow because of it.
That is bad news for religious freedom in America, and even worse for Muslim-Americans, who have recently seen an increase in discrimination.
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, as of Dec. 8 there were 63 incidents involving harassment, threats, zoning discrimination and vandalism at American mosques and Islamic centers.
In November, the month that ISIL terrorists killed 130 people in Paris, there were 17 such incidents. That is almost three times as many as the next closest month, matching the threefold increase overall from last year
It is unlikely that the drastic increase is just a coincidence. American extremists are responding to Islamic terrorism with hate crimes of their own.
After Obama’s oval office speech on Dec. 6, Republican Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio criticized how much time he spent talking about anti-Muslim discrimination.
“Where is there widespread evidence that we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims?” Rubio asked.
Well Mr. Rubio, check out the statistics above and you can see that there is widespread evidence. Ask the average Muslim on the street and chances are they can give you a personal example of their own.
People might be thinking, “Why should I care about hate crimes against Muslims? It’s wrong and unfortunate, but it doesn’t directly affect me.”
Hate crimes against Muslims play right into the hands of ISIL and other Islamic terror groups. If Muslims do not feel accepted by Western culture, they are more susceptible to terrorists’ message that there is a war against Islam.
This idea is reinforced in a Washington Post article by Jocelyn Bélanger, a psychology professor at the University of Quebec in Montreal.
“When people feel a loss of significance — when they are humiliated — that propels them to join a radical group,” Bélanger said. “A group gives them a feeling of significance. It fulfills a psychological need.”
Instead of pushing them towards these Islamic terrorist groups, Americans must bring them in as one of us. Let Muslims know that we value religious freedom and coexistence.
Hateful Islamophobia can be defeated in America, but it requires the compassionate majority to come together and denounce the anti-Muslim speech and actions being committed on a daily basis.
BY KOBI AZOULAY
President Obama has been facing a lot of unfair criticism over his strategy against ISIL, attempting to balance defeating the terror group with avoiding war.
Now, after basing many special operators in Northern Syria to support the Kurdish Pershmerga and other local militias fighting the terror organization, the political pressure facing the president has reached ear popping levels.
Some war-weary Americans worry that by putting troops on the ground in Syria, we are creeping towards an inevitable full-scale invasion. This is possible, but unlikely under Obama because he has made it clear throughout his presidency that he does not want to engage in a full-scale invasion like the United States did during the Iraq war.
“If the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them,” Obama said, according to Politico.
There are already just over 3,000 troops stationed in Iraq supporting and training their security forces. Though these troops may face dangerous situations, they are not conducting their own combat missions.
Obama deserves credit for trying to handle this situation in a strategically and calculated way.
A December CNN/ORC poll showed that the majority of Americans support sending ground troops into combat operations in Iraq and Syria at 53 percent. What some of these people may not realize is that there are already ground troops there.
Going into a full-blown ground war is a decision that the American people do not take lightly, unlike war hawk politicians like South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who already wants to send 10,000 American troops to Iraq.
These troops would be in grave danger, and we would have to commit to staying there until the mission is complete.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz once said that America should be able to defeat ISIL in 90 days, a timeframe that is terribly unrealistic.
Former General Martin Dempsey told Cruz at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in September that his plan is “not possible.”
“We could destroy a lot of equipment; we could drive them underground, if you will. But as I said, they will only be defeated or destroyed once they’re rejected by the populations in which they hide,” Dempsey said at the time.
Until those populations do as Dempsey said, another costly American occupation of Iraq would go to waste. The Iraq war caused thousands of brave American lives and trillions of dollars to be lost, and it is possible a full-scale war against ISIL would cost just as much, if not more.
Obama is trying to see if America can handle them without having to take on these horrible costs of war.
People that think America should go into Iraq and Syria with an iron fist have to see past defeating ISIL. It is definitely possible for us to send thousands of troops in to destroy their so-called “state,” but what happens next?
If we take them out and leave, there will be a vacuum for another terrorist group to come in and takeover, just as ISIL did after we overthrew Suddam Hussein.
Recently they have also gained territory in Libya, so if we commit to war with ISIL, we have to be ready to send troops to more than just Iraq and Syria.
Americans should not blame Obama for taking the moderate approach to this decision.
With one faction of Americans completely opposed to war, and another wanting to move aggressively toward it, we have a president that is finding the middle ground.
That is a rare occurrence in modern American politics, something we should all be able to appreciate.
By Sam Stevens
The takeaway from the student uprisings of the last few months is that many students graduating universities are incapable functioning in a republic.
Free speech presupposes that everyone tolerates each other in the true meaning of the term. Instead, the concept has been perverted. Everyone must embrace lifestyles or identities with which they disagree, to the point that their own identities are considered invalid or hateful. For example, the concept of freedom of association when it comes private businesses has been all but eroded.
Universities are supposed to be places of open discourse. Rather than adopt a true diversity when it comes to political thought, many have taken the route of going into hysterics when something counters their social justice ideology.
It is not the administration of these universities that launches into a rage. Students lashed out of the administrators of Yale University for suggesting that they be open to different ideas.
Yale is one of the Ivy League universities. The future leaders of the nation are supposed to graduate from Yale. Yet they need the school to police Halloween costumes they consider “racist.”
This episode suggests what academics at that university must be like. However, I can only speculate, as I do not attend the college. It does suggest a narrow range of acceptable thought.
Television, movies, and mass media have foisted upon the country this narrow range of thought, cloaking it in inclusiveness and diversity. The other mechanism is pre-packaged systems: social justice liberalism a la MSNBC and neo-conservatism a la Fox News.
Both police their respective ideological pools with ruthless efficiency. Any criticism of Israel will get you ostracized from the Republican establishment, while any criticism of immigration earns you the same fate on the other side.
This kind of conditioning is so rampant that people self-police their own thoughts and behaviors, unless they want to the self-appointed thought police to shriek them down and brand them as a deviant.
The point of a republic is to allow qualified citizens to vote and deliberate on the issues in order to come to some kind of consensus. The adherents to the kind of ‘safe space’ politics cannot function in a democracy. If someone is shielded from any disagreement or alternative ideas, it leads to stagnation and decay.
All one-party, totalitarian states fail because of this flaw. The establishment becomes so convinced of its superiority, partly because they have purged any alternative ideas.
While there are no secret police, it’s almost as if America has marginalized truly diverse thinkers. The 1960s Cultural Revolution, like all revolutions, has turned on itself.
Where the Baby Boomers championed free speech decades ago, we now have the nebulous concept of hate speech, where the self-appointed guardians of speech lambaste anything remotely beyond the pale of political correctness as “fascist.”
The “68er” Cultural Revolution mirrors the French Revolution on a much less violent scale. The students of Yale, Missouri, and other universities are the destructive Jacobin force, the true believers in “safe space” politics, attacking their Baby Boomer and Gen-X Girondists, the moderates that actually believe in free speech.
What this means for intellectual discourse in America’s universities will emerge as time goes on. Should the trend ideological Puritanism continue, it can only lead to tyranny. If the students of Yale and Missouri want their universities to coddle them and insulate them from alternative ideas, they will only want a state that does the same.
By Kristopher Price
The American family is in a state of decay. Contrary to what some people might tell you however, it is not because of the increased acceptance of gay marriage, decreasing religiosity of Americans or independence of young women.
These bogeymen actually take away credence from real issues threatening the filial integrity of families across the country. These issues are a combination of American individualism at its worst, and nonexistent social and welfare policies for new parents and families.
One of the proud cornerstones of American culture is its individualism. People are encouraged to go pursue their own dreams instead of being tied to a family company or farm; there is the common, now increasingly questioned, assumption that with enough effort, you can become anything.
However, this spirit of individualism has a dark side.
Many millennials are familiar with their generation being shunned for not immediately leaving home after graduation, due to not being able to afford a new home. The idea that moving out and buying your own house is what every young adult is supposed to do is actually only a couple generations old.
During the Baby Boom, millions of Americans bought houses in the suburbs, and so did their children. But now people who do not do this and remain living with their parents or relatives are often depicted in the media as immature, lazy, loners or freaks. There is a clear discouragement of living with your immediate family upon entering adulthood present here.
Another consequence of this is the eventual isolation of parents as they grow older after their children grow up and move out. If they do not live with a relative, a senior citizen can often become lonely or depressed, not to mention being less able to take care of themselves.
An interesting thing is that this discouragement of living with your family is not present in other countries. In Italy or Spain, for example, it is very common for someone to live with their extended family under one roof. If these cultures have no problem with this, then why do we?
Another significant problem affecting families is the distinct lack of paid parental leave in America. The United States is one of only eight countries in the world that does not require employers to pay parents of newborn children. The consequences of this are new mothers having to bring their babies to work, or one of the parents having to make the tough decision to stay home to take care of the kid. This can be very stressful on parents.
A more beneficial and healthy system would require employers to pay both parents, not just the mothers, while they take mandatory leave for an extended period, from six weeks to three months to even a year, to raise their child. This will give mothers more time to recover from giving birth, and let parents take better care of their child by spending more time around them.
You might be wondering why the integrity of families in America is important. The interesting thing is that happiness has been found to correlate strongly with how close ties are between family members in a given country.
For example, Venezuela might not be the first country people imagine living happily in, with its corrupt government and insane economy. However, it ranks seventh among the top happiest countries, ranked by positive index scores. Family bonds are highly valued in Latin American cultures, so this correlation between family and happiness holds true here.
People on the far right often attack new or alternative forms of family, such as gay couples or polyamorous relationships. But the fact is that these groups of people are just as capable, and sometimes better at, raising children than their heterosexual and/or monoamorous counterparts.
Gay couples, for obvious reasons, are not at risk of accidentally conceiving a child. This gives them the chance to think more carefully and be more prepared for having one. Not much research has been done on polyamorous relationships (romantic relationships between more than two people), but there is no logical reason to think that a larger set of people would be less well equipped at raising a child.
The consequences of the decaying state of American families may not seem immediate, but they will become apparent over time if not addressed. Without a reliable support network to fall back on, many Americans will become more and more isolated, some of them even falling through the gaps in the system. There might even be effects on our mental and emotional health as well.
This is why it is important that we ameliorate these issues, and could start with something as simple as paid parental leave.
By Emmanuel Atufu
Americans can be really dumb, that is a clear and undeniable fact and there is plenty of evidence to prove that.
In 2014, the Pew Research Center interviewed 1,002 adults, age 18 years and older for their News IQ quiz that measures the public’s awareness of key facts in the news. The results were fascinating, to say the least.
The quiz revealed that 49 percent did not know that Common Core was an education standard, 33 percent did not know the unemployment rate was at six percent, 24 percent did not know that Janet Yellen was the Chair of the Federal Reserve and 20 percent did not know that the Government spends the most on Social Security.
One can easily assume from the Pew Research survey that Americans are stupid (and there is certainly a case to be made), but the real problem is not stupidity, but ignorance.
Ignorance is the Achilles’ heel of democracy. In 2014, the Annenberg Public Policy Center conducted a survey of 1,416 adults and the results were stunning.
The survey revealed only 36 percent of respondents could name all three branches of Government, while 35 could not name a single one. And it gets even worse.
Only 27 percent of the respondents knew it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. .The survey serves to further confirm that Americans know very little about politics and public policy.
The Federal budget is one example of political ignorance. A substantial percentage of people think that we can solve the Federal budget crisis by cutting unpopular foreign aid programs, all while not raising taxes or touching entitlement programs such as Social Security.
What most voters do not know is that foreign aid accounts for about one percent of the Federal budget. Social Security on the other hand, accounts for 24 percent of the budget, or $851 billion in 2014, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
This high level of political ignorance has persisted despite the increase and diversity of new media outlets and the rise in the number of the college-educated.
But if people are not necessarily stupid and information is readily available online, then why are people still uninformed? The answer is simple: we are all too busy with our own lives to worry about what is happening in Washington D.C.
So the problem is not that Americans are stupid, the real issue here is that Americans lack the time or interest in politics. However, that lack of time and interest in politics is stalling any attempts at social progress and crippling the middle class and those of low-economic status.
In 2015, GBA Strategies conducted a national poll of 1,500 likely 2016 voters (Republicans, Democrats, Independents), in order to find the percentage of support Americans had for various key issues. The results were amazing.
When asked whether the government should negotiate drug prices, an overwhelming 79 percent of respondents agreed. On the topic of giving students the same low interest rates as big banks, there was 78 percent support.
There was 74 percent support for ending tax loopholes for corporations shipping jobs overseas, 73 percent support for ending gerrymandering, 71 percent support for NSA to get warrants, and 71 percent support for debt-free college. Overall 29 out of 52 key issues had at least 61 percent support.
With so much overwhelming support for many of the issues, you would think that there was already legislation that addressed those issues. But you would be dead wrong. All because people are uninformed.
A large number of people believe that their vote will not make much of a difference in election cycles, thus they rarely educate themselves on politics and public policy. However, they will still turn out to vote. And being an uninformed voter leads them to vote for public officials whose policies go against their own interests.
Ignorance is the reason why nothing the majority of the public wants ever gets done, even though everyone is in agreement about what needs to be done to improve the country. When things go bad, we tend to finger point and assume the politicians are the problem, instead of looking at the mirror.
It is not that we have incompetent leaders, we are just too dumb for democracy.
By Lilly Metcalfe
Most scary movies consist of non-existent horrors, while “The Seasoning House” depicts something that is terrifyingly real, something that is happening all around the planet. It is something evasive, evil and immoral.
It is rape.
“The Seasoning House” is a brilliantly crafted thriller that explores the controversial world of prostitution. It depicts the grim world of rape and abuse beautifully, providing viewers with fear, anger and suspense. It is a movie you would want to watch if you can handle watching some gore, drug abuse and sexual exploitation.
The main character is deaf, so most of the film consists of little dialogue and small noises. My recommendation is to watch the film so late night that no one is texting, no one is posting anything, so you will not be distracted while the movie is playing. It will make the thriller drastically less horrific if you are not watching the whole time. This movie demands the viewer’s utmost attention.
On Netflix it received three and a half stars, which is pretty good for Netflix thriller movie standards. It is relatively short, about an hour and thirty minutes long, which makes it a convenient choice especially for time restricted students.
The story is about a young German girl kidnapped during war and put in a prostitution house. Viewers gradually learn pieces of information about the main character through series of flashbacks. She watched her mother and sister die, her father abandoned her, she is deaf, she is sexually abused and she is forced to tend to the other girls in the house. Her true name is never revealed, but the manager of the prostitution house, Viktor, calls her “his little angel” or just Angel.
Everyday life for Angel is a continuous and tormenting routine; she is forced to prep the other stolen girls by doping them in order to prepare them to be used by men and then has to clean them up after they are raped, so the next set of men can have their turn. She witnesses the violence the girls undergo as well as learns the unsettling fact that they will never get out of the house alive.
The viewers of the movie experience what a prostitution house really is: a place where young girls are victimized and ultimately killed in a slow and painful process.
The scenery is perfect in conveying such a dark theme. The house is dirty, unkempt, bloodstained, moldy, dim-lighted. The filth of the house makes the horrors of the forced abuse realistic. It depicts that the girls are in unsanitary conditions and that they are vulnerable.
The scenery only enhances the sympathy one feels for each of the unfortunate girls. The woods are foggy and full of corpses of the girls that never made it out of the house alive. The fog is a common metaphor keeping things hidden. It helps create the suspense for viewers, as they do not know who will be safe.
The acting is relatively good, but Angel makes weird (and annoying) moaning noises when she falls down or gets hit. The secondary characters, unlike most actors of thriller movies, are decent actors with conveying emotion and delivering lines with ease. The dialogue that was said could have been better, but it wasn’t the most important thing in helping create the suspense and tension.
The storyline over all is satisfactory and is different, as it does not follow the usual horror movie storyline template. The central character becomes a heroic figure instead of staying a victimized young girl. The plot twist at the end wasn’t the best, but does leave viewers thirsty for more.
The Flyer gives “The Seasoning House” a 6/10.
By Emmanuel Atufu
It has been seven years since President Barack Obama was sworn into office. So how good or bad of a job as president has Obama been? To answer that, we must look back at his promises during his 2008 campaign for presidency.
Obama advocated for universal health care, immigration reform, an end to the war in Iraq and the closure of Guantanamo Bay.
Not only that, he wanted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, a military policy that bans homosexuals from openly serving in the armed forces. He also endorsed the repeal of the Bush-era tax cuts for wealthy Americans making over $250,000.
Obama made a lot of promises to the American people back then, but has he kept any of them? Let us fact check his record.
In 2010, Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) also known as Obamacare. It certainly was not what he had in mind.
He promised to create one national health insurance care exchange, but settled for a state-based exchange. Nonetheless, he got something done and because of that, nearly 15 million fewer people lack health insurance coverage now.
During a speech in 2008, Obama addressed the League of United Latin American Citizens and told them that he would enact a comprehensive immigration reform by his first year in office. That never happened. Fast forward to 2015 and Obama still has not delivered on his promise.
Obama kept his promise on Iraq war by putting an end to it. However, the Afghanistan war is still going on even though he promised to end it by 2014.
It has been seven years and Guantanamo Bay still has not been closed, however, a plan is in the works. Although, he kept his promise on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and repealed it.
When it came to the Bush-era tax cuts, Obama once again, failed. Not only did he not repeal it, he made them permanent. Even Bush could not do that. However, he did extend child tax credits and marriage-penalty fixes.
As you can see, Obama did not deliver on most of his promises and according to Politifact, Obama kept seven out of his 25 top promises.
However, according to Politifact’s Obameter, Obama has kept 45 percent of his promises, compromised on 25 percent and broke his promise on 22 percent.
Those numbers makes Obama looks as if he kept a majority of his promises, but most of those promises were small promises with no huge impact on individuals and their families.
When it came to the issues that impacted people such as the creation of a foreclosure prevention fund for homeowners, being tougher on lobbyists and special interests, the creation of cap and trade to slow global warming or cutting family health insurance premiums by $2,500 a year, Obama fell flat.
As Obama enters his lame duck session, his legacy will be on his mind. The Iran deal and the re-establishment of relations with Cuba as well as numerous executive orders is evident of that.
While the outlook of the economy is strong and unemployment is down from its 2009 highs, Obama did not deliver on his top promises and has failed to strengthen the middle class.
Obama could have done better, and had a lot of opportunities to do so, but for some reason did not. Thanks Obama.
By Samuel Stevens
The recent Muslim terrorist attacks in Paris and the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe are the result of over forty years of shortsighted policy by the U.S. and Israeli government.
The argument could be made, though, that it goes back even further to the British Balfour Declaration in 1917, robbing the Arabs of the self-determination T.E. Lawrence worked so hard for during the First World War.
Saddam Hussein, Gadhafi and now Bashar al-Assad are not ideal Western leaders; their nations are not liberal democracies by any stretch. On the other side of the world, the past two American administrations value forcing democracy onto a people that have no experience with it, rather than the security of the Middle East, and by extension the U.S. and Europe.
These policies that cause influxes of refugees and terrorism do not come down on the ruling class that pushes them. Syrians are not going to live in the German Chancellery (their White House), they are going to small villages and towns that cannot afford to feed and house them.
The new imperial program does not involve taking over a country by force as it did in the nineteenth century. The new imperialism in the Middle East is about regime change—eliminating nationalist leaders and replacing them with far more radical Wahhabis that are pliable to Western commercial interests.
Destroying countries and then allowing more fundamentalist governments to take over causes two problems: first, the destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria causes refugees to leave for Europe and the United States. The home countries become support bases of terrorism, and increased Arab migration to the West allows terrorists to hide in plain sight with legitimate immigrants.
Terrorism is an insurgency, or protracted war. Mao, leader of the Communist revolution in China, said that insurgents “must move among the people as a fish swims in the sea.”
It does not matter if “not all Muslims” are terrorists. What is important is that a large Muslim population in a Western country, especially smaller ones like in Europe, provides cover to the few who are members of ISIS.
Taking in refugees from the Middle East does not address the problem. Rather than help Assad restore stability to his nation, the U.S. government has spent its time arming “moderate” Syrian rebels. Neoconservative and liberal interventionist policy makers have learned nothing after decades of interventions, trying to spread the gospel of democracy and Western capitalism to groups of people with very different histories and cultures.
Media tries to justify these interventions through appeals to emotion. The image of a Syrian boy drowning on the beach, or the overloaded boats of refugees is a tool of the media to manipulate the public.
War and human suffering are tragic. Europe and the U.S. already have people without jobs, homes, or food. Our governments have not been able to take care of them.
Adding to that problem is not going make it any better. People in the U.S. and Europe want to save Arab refugees, when we cannot save ourselves. Caring for these refugees because of pathological altruism makes people feel happy.
It does not confront why the people are refugees in the first place.