Bishop to Boycott Obama Commencement Speech
2009 College Grads: We're the Lucky Ones
Beer in Vending Machines -- What Drinking Age?
How The Press Can Remain Relevant
Be Afraid, Cheney Warns. Be Very Afraid.
Obama: You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry...
Obama to GOP: 'I Won, I'm The President'
Henceforth, we will be know as The Cram, but our purpose remains consistent:
"The Cram is opinion and analysis from accomplished student writers at higher learning institutions across America, where the future of politics is taking shape every day over collegial debate and caffeinated study. Join us as we break down the news cycle with an eye on campus issues and enough energy to conquer any syllabus."
You will find your favorite writers and new faces on The Cram, as well as a beat on the topics that interest you most. This week we've covered the continued controversy over Notre Dame's selection of President Obama as this year's commencement speaker, how the New York State budget is aversely effecting the state's student population, the continued towering tuition increases at our nation's universities, an exclusive speech made by the Bush Administration official who deemed waterboarding legal, and, right now, we're tweeting live from Obama's "100th Day" town hall in St. Louis.
We hope you'll continue to follow us in our new form. We promise to deliver the same brand of insightful campus coverage that you came back for.
In a new Washington Post poll, most Americans approve of Barack Obama's performance during his first 100 days in office.
But although the Post led its Sunday story with that finding, another response in the survey about the recently released torture memos is considerably more newsworthy. Apparently, 44 percent of the public disapproves of Obama's decision to release secret documents from the Bush administration detailing the interrogation of terrorism suspects. Fifty-three percent approved.
That key question also revealed a deep partisan divide, with three-quarters of Democrats backing the disclosure of the memos and just as many Republicans opposing the hotly debated move.
Why does access to more information fall along a partisan split? I was just as perplexed last year when I covered the Roger Clemens steroids-in-baseball hearing on Capitol Hill, and Democrats on the government reform committee harshly interrogated The Rocket while their Republican counterparts defended him. (I still can't figure out why, and Clemens has not been recorded by the FEC for any GOP campaign donations.)
But when did the issue of releasing information -- albeit from the secretive Bush administration about the sensitive issue of torture -- begin to irk conservatives? Shouldn't the availability of information be heralded by all, whether it be documents implicating a Democratic governor of New York in a prostitution ring or sexual instant messages between a Republican congressman from Florida and his congressional pages?
Former Bush Administration official John Yoo, author of several Justice Department memos determining waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" to be legal, addressed the California College Republicans as the keynote speaker at their statewide convention in San Francisco this weekend.
Author's note: In addition to political commentary, I'm a member of the USC College Republicans. Views posted here are my own.
Two dozen protesters gathered outside the Hyatt Fisherman's Wharf hotel where the convention was being held, holding signs calling Yoo a war criminal as they chanted, "Jail John Yoo!"
It would not be Earth Day weekend without the requisite guilt: Pesky environmentalists proselytizing their cause ad nauseum, hoping to influence at least one group of complacent bystanders to evaluate their carbon footprint. Though annoying, their cause has ample merit: A recent study by the National Climate Data Center reveals that the period between January and March 2009 was the eighth hottest on record. The next three months, for that reason, are certain to pan out no differently.
So on the heels of an excessively warm Earth Day, from the couch in my excessively warm apartment in Washington D.C., I decide to question my own impact on the environment. To do so, I locate an informal quiz at EarthDay.net, one of the "holiday's" leading advocacy groups. The verdict: I am a greedy, hoarding, inefficient waste of Earth space, living a lifestyle that, if emulated by billions, would destroy the Earth more than four times over:
I'm shocked; until now, I have no idea I'm truly wrecking the Earth, and I thus feel guilty. I subsequently consult the Web site's quiz-specific conservation guide, hoping to gain some insight into which specific behaviors contribute to my planet's downfall. What I find, however, verges on asinine.
The top tip EarthDay.net offers me is predictable: I should replace my most common household appliances with machines or devices that are more energy efficient. Although I have not the resources to make any such purchases right now, I estimate their cost using BestBuy.com anyway. My findings are hardly surprising. To replace the old refrigerator, washer, dryer, air conditioner and television in my apartment with the cheapest (and smallest) ENERGY STAR-compliant appliances on the market, it would cost me approximately $1,900, sans delivery and tax. This hefty sum excludes a host of other inefficient appliances that I normally use -- including my laptop and stove, for instance -- which would presumably cost me even more to replace.
(Click to read more about the quiz and what it means.)
Sam Guzik is now a contributor for The Cram, a student news arm of the newly launched PoliticsDaily.com. To follow his future work, click here.
The Supreme Court is one of the United States's most venerable institutions, packed with nine of the nation's best legal minds, so it makes sense that they might be a little too busy to keep up with popular culture. Comments during the oral arguments in a case earlier this week, though, take out of touch to a new level.
Safford Unified School District v. Redding, heard by the court on Tuesday, asks the justices to weigh in on the constitutionality of strip searching students in schools when administrators have received a tip about hidden contraband but no location-specific information. While sorting through the complex fourth amendment issues, Justices found themselves transported back to their own time in school.
Take Justice Breyer, who wondered how the strip search was any different than what he had to endure while being forced to change for gym class and, less relevantly, while being teased by fellow students.
"In my experience when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old, you know, we did take our clothes off once a day, we changed for gym, OK? And in my experience, too, people did sometimes stick things in my underwear," said Breyer while trying to point out that it might not be unusual for children to hide things from teachers in their underwear. As the court broke out into laughter, Breyer quickly added, "Or not my underwear. Whatever. Whatever."
Posted: Apr 23rd 2009 7:26PM
The blogosphere is still rumbling this week after a suggestion by Texas Governor Rick Perry that the (now literally) Lone Star state secede from the embattled union. It does not help, of course, that a poll released on Thursday by Research2000 merely confirms the unfortunate truth that Perry's comments may have resonated among some Texans: In the survey, nearly 35 percent of respondents, mostly Republicans, indicated they felt Texas would be better off as an "independent nation."
It would be naive to take these findings seriously; gauging public opinion on any topic is difficult and daunting, especially when the questions themselves are indulgent and practically invite silliness. It is likely that many of the survey's respondents answered only out of jest, submitting to Perry's gaffe without the slightest contemplation of what secession would actually mean for their state, personal or geographic.
But that hasn't stopped a plethora of pundits from jokingly hypothesizing on their behalf. Earlier this week, Daily Kos noted a few drawbacks to Texan secession: the loss of its coveted military bases, exorbitant NASA funding and most of its dirty industry. Preceding that prediction was Nate Silver, who reminded politicos at FiveThirtyEight that an America without Texas would have catapulted the Democrats to a filibuster-proof supermajority in Congress -- even without Al Franken's help -- and ensured that not another Bush family member could have won the White House in 2004.
Indeed, we can attribute to Texas' departure a number of interesting benefits (that only those wary voters who stuck out the economy's apoplexy could reap). For example...
(CLICK TO READ MORE...)
On April 9, 2009 - 50 years ago this month - John Glenn was named a member of the Mercury 7, the United States' first astronauts. Glenn grew up in the village of New Concord - a small, college town in southeastern Ohio. He was a member of the village band and eventually a student at Muskingum College.
Since those days, his name has been one that is familiar to most anyone. He was a fighter pilot, a test pilot, one of America's first astronauts, the first man to orbit earth in space, an Ohio senator, a presidential candidate and later the oldest man to fly in space.
"It's hard for me to believe it's been that long," he said. "Part of that is because it seems to vivid to me."
One thing made clear by speaking with Glenn is his keen interest in politics and history. In fact, Glenn, a former Ohio Senator from 1974 to 1999, ran for president in 1984 but was unsuccessful. A close friend of the Kennedy family, Glenn was with Robert Kennedy when President John Kennedy was assassinated in Texas.
Glenn campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 and President Barack Obama in 2008. Glenn has said Obama is "doing an exceptional job" dealing with America's economic crisis.
"I can't speak with any certainty about the economy, because nobody knows what's going to happen, and I think we had to do something because this was the biggest drift down since the Great Depression."
Let's instead turn to a much lighter story. Washingtonian Magazine, which typically has such attention-grabbing cover stories as "Top 100 Dentists in the Washington Area" or "Top 30 Places to Visit on the Weekend," has put out a May cover that is getting way more attention than their April edition, "Inside 10 Great Homes."
The topic of this month's cover issue is "26 Reasons to Love Living Here." Reason No. 2 is: "Our new neighbor is hot."
To prove the point, the magazine put a picture of President Obama, clad only in a bathing suit and sunglasses, on the cover.
I know the print media industry is suffering right now, but really, Washingtonian Magazine? I didn't realize your editorial board consisted of the women from Desperate Housewives.
President Obama is making a mistake by not pursuing any prosecutions for those responsible for the harsh interrogation techniques that were used during the Bush administration.
Last week, I posted a blog piece about the legal memos released by the Justice Department that detailed the interrogation techniques used by the United States on people suspected of involvement in terrorist acts or planning. Obama reportedly agonized over the release of the memos, weighing whether their release was necessary for transparency of government or whether releasing the memos would compromise the security of the United States.
When he did release them, he announced that those who had carried out the torture, believing their actions were lawful, would not be subject to prosecution.
George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC's "This Week," asked White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel on Sunday whether the president also ruled out prosecution for the officials who devised the torture polices.
Emanuel responded: "He believes that people in good faith were operating with the guidance they were provided."
Now, add to those taboos shaking hands with leaders of certain countries.
It was only recently at the G-20 summit that Barack Obama was "bending his tall frame" to the king of Saudi Arabia. But on Friday, Obama shook hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at a summit in Trinidad and Tobago.
As the fair and balanced network Fox News objectively told us in a headline, "Handshake With Obama Belies Chavez's Contempt for America."
And Dick Cheney, who like Santa Claus apparently has a list of things that are naughty and nice, told that same award-wanting news network that the handshake "was not helpful."
Last night, the Miss USA pageant was held -- unbeknownst to me, since all I know about pageants is what I've seen in Little Miss Sunshine. Near the end of the pageant, celebrity judge Perez Hilton was tasked with asking one question of then-frontrunner Miss California Carrie Prejean. He decided to lob a question about one of the most politically controversial issues of our time; Prejean's response may have cost her the title:
It is improbable that a homely, 47-year-old woman from a small village in Scotland could captivate the world, but somehow that is exactly what has happened this week.
Last Wednesday, a friend sent me a link to a YouTube video showing Susan Boyle, a woman of admittedly plain looks, with short, curly gray hair, a plump figure and bushy eyebrows. Boyle appeared on Britain's Got Talent, a television show similar to American Idol, where the perpetually tan Simon Cowell and another man and woman judge as regular Brits showcase their performance skills.
The video starts with an interview with Susan Boyle, who says she lives alone with her cat Pebbles, and has never been married, or even kissed. When she walks out on stage, you can hear the laughter from the audience, and see the doubt in the faces of the judges. This woman, everyone thought, would just be another dud, someone who thought she sounded good in the shower, but really struggled to carry a tune.
But everyone gets their chance on the show, even though many in the audience were rolling their eyes. The music for "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical Les Miserables began, and the audience went from mockery to amazement as they heard Susan Boyle start singing the very difficult song beautifully. The shock registered on the judges' faces, and the audience stood up to cheer, while Susan Boyle calmly continued singing the song she had come to sing.
The YouTube video has, by Monday afternoon, received more than 33 million views. Boyle is one of the top trending topics on Twitter and has been for days. She has over a million fans on Facebook.
And I, for one, cannot stop thinking about her.
money & financepolitics
"Billions are squandered on programs that have outlived their usefulness, or exist solely because of the power of a lobbyist or interest group," Obama said.
An agenda topic at Monday's first full Cabinet meeting will be budget cut proposals from each federal department and agency.
In his Saturday address, Obama named two specific budget cuts recently made: firstly, the Department of Homeland Security is no longer spending $3 million on logo updates. The DHS was created less than 7 years ago and the reason that the logo needed a $3 million update so soon remains to be seen.
The second budget cut is the saving of an estimated "hundreds of billions of dollars in wasteful spending and cost overruns" in the Department of Defense. According to the DoD's FY 2008 Agency Financial Report, the Department's available resources were $1.1 trillion, which primarily consisted of $736.4 billion in appropriations. The net cost of operations was $676 billion. A possible budget cut is no longer appropriating $736.4 billion to tally $1.1 trillion in resources when net operating costs are only $676 billion.
Obama pledged to announce "the elimination of dozens of government programs shown to be wasteful or ineffective. In this effort, there will be no sacred cows, and no pet projects."
But such is the perplexing case of Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American reporter who was convicted of spying by Iran's shady court this week. The prosecutors accused the 31-year-old journalist of passing along secret information to U.S. intelligence agencies.
Spying is a pretty serious career choice, not to mention time-consuming. For Saberi to successfully spy on the Iranian government, she would have to maintain a cover, make contacts and stay under the radar for most of the six years that she's lived in the country (at least, according to the Spy Museum tour I took in D.C.).
So if suspected spy Saberi was supposed to lay low, why was she filing dozens of stories each month for news organizations like the BBC, NPR and Fox? In June 2007, she was on the front line in Tehran when Iranians burned down gas stations in opposition to fuel rationing. And she was on the scene when the Islamic country banned women from soccer games the year before, too.
Either Roxana Saberi is a terrible spy, or she's not a spy at all.
But the larger impact embodied by these protests is a bit more subtle: It shows that conservatives have discovered new media in a very powerful way.
Political campaigns of all ideological viewpoints have long gathered e-mail lists of supporters and built professionally-designed websites to serve as their online presence. But only recently has the Internet evolved to serve as a global town hall, with activists uploading pictures and videos from events held around the world, and networking tool, with registered organizers pooling resources and sharing plans.
In the last election season, both Barack Obama and John McCain created social networking sites and event registration tools in addition to Facebook pages and a YouTube channel. The Obama campaign was more successful with these tools for a variety of reasons (younger base of supporters, ridiculous talent on staff), but the online media landscape is changing so rapidly that conservatives have a real chance at surpassing the most impressive techniques of the '08 cycle.
Beyond the ideological debate behind Wednesday's protests, the fact remains that hundreds of events, sometimes thousands of miles apart, were linked together by the power of social media, as organizers coordinated events online and exchanged pictures (video, stories, etc.) afterward.
More on new media after the jump...