Only Pack the Essentials

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Guinness is the first, arguably most important, item I would pack.  There is not a more defining symbol of Irish culture than the black gold.  As as an Irish citizen it symbolizes the laid-back, familial nature of the Irish people.  For my second item, I would pack a computer so that I could watch the LSU football games online.  I have enjoyed LSU football games for a long time, and they have always been a reminder to not take life to seriously.  I mean at least I’m not the guy in the student section throwing up in the aisle, so life could always be worse.  “The Stranger” by Albert Camus would be be the third item that I bring because I grew up in an echo chamber of theology; this book expanded my horizons.  Furthermore, I would also pack “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Khaneman because behavioral economics is such an interesting field of study.  The book challenges the way you think about the world and makes you all the wiser for it. Last, but certainly not least, I would bring my family. They have been in many of my fondest memories, and I want them to be there for all the other cool stuff I accomplish in my life as well.

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With Security and Surveillance for All

“Liberty and justice for all” is the well-engrained closing line from Francis Bellamy’s “Pledge of Allegiance”—a truly patriotic mantra that encompasses the fervent idealism of this nation’s founders with the contemporary romanticism that holds the imagination of the American public. Liberty and justice for everyone are values that I’d like to say have been foundational beliefs providing the bedrock of the American political system; however, at no point in United States history has the last line of the “Pledge of Allegiance” ever been true. Although, until recent history the U.S. government had never produced a federal mandate that so blatantly undermined these values. That changed with the Supreme Court’s decision in Korematsu v. U.S. (1944) when it was ruled that during times of war, the government’s compelling interest of national security outweighed the rights of American citizens. In other words, the government could legally infringe upon constitutional rights if there was a national security interest. Almost half a century later 9/11 occurred, and in response the U.S. government passed the Patriot Act in the interest of thwarting terrorist plots. The Patriot Act gives the National Security Agency (NSA) the ability to amass large quantities of private information on every cell phone in America, which infringes upon the Fourth Amendment right to prevent illegal search and seizure. In addition, the Justice Department can detain anyone for questioning without the need for a warrant, a probable cause or a legal proceeding. Furthermore, the Justice Department can issue gag orders that make it illegal for those detained for “suspicious activity” to ever discuss the activity of the Justice Department. The movie V for Vendetta is a satire that was released in direct response to the U.S. government overstepping its bounds. In this film, the government uses the public’s fear of war and disease to establish a totalitarian police state. The movie satirically jabs at former U.S. President George W. Bush who, in light of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, unilaterally used his executive mandate from the public to declare a war on terrorism and pass the Patriot Act. V for Vendetta introduces the issue of government overreach, but the in-depth research I conduct exposes the extent to which this issue pervades throughout contemporary American government.

Though, maybe I’m not being impartial to the issue; rather, the Patriot Act could be justifiable because while it may infringe upon the constitutional rights of Americans, it may prevent death and destruction caused by terrorist attacks. In other words, the ends may justify the means. The strongest political rhetoric that exists in favor of the Patriot Act is that it does prevent the always-looming threat of terrorist attacks. In 2015, Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-K.Y.) said, “We need to recognize that terrorist tactics and the nature of the threat have changed, and that at a moment of elevated threat it would be a mistake to take from our intelligence community any of the valuable tools needed to build a complete picture of terrorist networks and their plans—such as the bulk data collection program” (Raju and Everett, 2015). McConnell believes that removing surveillance power from the NSA—power derived from the Patriot Act—could lead to disastrous consequences in tense times. Other supporters of the Patriot Act express similar sentiment, especially their opposition to the information “whistleblower” Edward Snowden released in 2013 of classified government documents that revealed the NSA was amassing large quantities of private information from Americans via non-consented access to phone records, computer records, banking history and credit history (ACLU). The House Intelligence Committee denounced Edward Snowden and his action as a serious threat to national security. Chairman of the committee, Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) says the report issued by the committee presents that the information Edward Snowden leaked is not only fabricated but also has nothing to do with individual privacy interests (Gonzales, 2016). However, a study conducted by the New America Foundation, a non-profit organization, found that “of the 225 terrorism cases inside the U.S. since 9/11, bulk collection of phone records by the National Security Agency ‘has had no discernable impact on preventing acts of terrorism’” (Nakashima, 2014).

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This political cartoon conveys the prevalence of NSA surveillance.

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I Know Why a Caged Bird Dreams

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Birmingham Police respond to civil disobedience by suppressing marches with police dogs.

In “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,”  Martin Luther King Jr. shows contempt for the pro-segregation governments presiding over many Southern states, specifically Alabama, that seek continued oppression of black citizens in order to maintain the status quo.  He believes the police to be an extension of this government suppression.  For the perpetual racial injustices to be rectified, King devotes much of his essay to the idea of direct action, such as sit-ins and and marches, in order to get the attention of the public and put pressure on the government.  In “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau likens the government to a brutish machine that hinders the freedom of individuals through means of physical restraint.  Thoreau idealizes a government that serves the best interest of its people, but he focuses on his view of reality, in which he lambastes the American government’s injustices pertaining to the Mexican-American war and slavery.  Both Thoreau and King perceive the government as an entity by which the majority unjustly rule at the expense of the minority; thus, they both offer improvements to government function.  However, while Thoreau conceptualizes government as an abstract set of principles, King focuses on the embodiment of government represented in Birmingham, Alabama.  King details specific action to be taken in response to government injustice, while Thoreau is less straight forward about responsive actions.

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Satire as an Effective Argument

The Vertical Negro Plan utilizes a more effective ethical appeal than Left-Handers (Those Sickos) Got No Reason to Live!.  Both satirical pieces get their point across, but The Vertical Negro Plan expresses its viewpoint in a more respectful and knowledgeable manner.  Harry Golden, writer of The Vertical Negro plan, expresses his ideas on the matter of desegregation in a neutral, non-inflammatory tone, which increases his credibility.  Instead of attacking the opposition, Golden masterfully uses irony as means to confront the serious issue of segregation.  For instance, in paragraph seven Golden suggests that chairs be removed from the desk because “no one in the South pays the slightest attention to the VERTICAL NEGRO,” so it will consequently force both white students and black students to stand up.  On the other hand, Roger Guffey, writer of Left-Handers (Those Sickos) Got No Reason to Live!, uses inflammatory words and rhetoric that diminish his argument by demonizing the opposition.  For example, Guffey writes, “We should all band together and pray fervently that God will strike these little perverts dead.”  Guffey’s over and extreme usage of hyperbole serves to weaken his ethical position.

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Like this political cartoon, The Vertical Negro Plan shows how the South avoided desegregation

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V for Vendetta Movie Review

V for Vendetta is a satirical movie depicting a post-war Britain under a fascist government regime.  The premise of the film is that a masked anarchist, referred to only as V, is blowing up symbolic British government buildings in protest of the current fascist rule.  After saving a media employee from corrupt police officers, V decides to take the young woman under his wing.  In the process he divulges to her his grand plot, and as partners they collude to destroy the British Parliament building in hopes of overthrowing the government.  The satirical elements of the movie are the circumstances under which the autocracy seized control. The movie drew parallels to the post-9/11 political landscape wherein government response to terrorism involved the Iraq War and increased government surveillance.  The issue the movie poses is, does the global political response to terrorism have comparative qualities to the fear-driven rise of fascism described in this movie?

 

The issue presented in this 2005 film remains relevant today because of the serious discussion of terrorism that still persists.  It is a compelling issue because of the vast impact it has had on society’s outlook in response to government action on terrorism.  For example, the Patriot Act was signed following 9/11 during the Bush administration.  The bill has allowed the National Security Agency to amass large quantities of data without the public’s consent in the name of national security interests.  These kinds of actions are consistent with the actions taken by the tyrannical government in the movie.  However, the government is not responsible for overstepping the boundaries of freedom; rather it is the public’s fear that drives fascist government action.  In the movie V says, “if you are looking for someone to blame, you may only take a look into a mirror.”  The government cultivates the public’s fear of terrorism as grounds to prevent terrorism by any means necessary.  In most cases, this can only be achieved by increasing government surveillance and sacrificing  individual liberties.

 

Since the movie’s release in 2005, the number of global terror attacks has increased.  In addition, the looming threat of terrorism has continued to reshape politics in the Western hemisphere.  Most recently, the ideological differences in handling terrorism has been influential in giving political support to conservative factions in the U.S.and across Western Europe.  Conservatives typically supports an aggressive “by any means necessary” anti-terror stance.  For example, the increase in terror attacks certainly helped conservative leader Donald Trump win the U.S. presidential election.  In addition, the British conservative party recently voted to exit from the the European Union.  The European Union has taken a more liberal approach to refugees from Muslim-majority areas.  Most notably, France and Germany have been proponents of taking in more refugees, though both countries have received strong opposition from conservative factions after recent terror attacks.

 

There is still much I hope to learn on this topic because the issue of the fear-driven politics is of current relevance, but it hard to say how much impact terrorism has had on government action.  I hope to find out by tracing government action in the Western world, though I will mainly focus on the United States.  Obviously, the global governmental response to terrorism can’t be equated to autocracy, but specific actions of governments have raised concern.  It is an incredibly complex issue, but I hope to at least gain a mild understanding of how this current political landscape pertains to the a dystopian depiction expressed in this movie.

 

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The ‘Guy Fawkes’ mask that the main character, V, wears symbolizes protest.

 

 

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‘Honey Boo Boo’ Rebuttal

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The Honey Boo Boo family with 10-year-old star, Alana, centered on the couch.

I contest Kathleen Parker’s assertion written in the Washington post that suggests the television show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo represents decaying societal values.  Specifically, I challenge the arguments and evidence she utilizes to support her claim.  As a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Parker makes an argument that relies heavily on her credibility, which she uses to declare opinion without referencing statistical evidence or opposing viewpoints.  Furthermore, she lends much of her claims to emotion that detracts from logical discourse.  In other words, she validates her opinions through strong ethos and pathos, but lack of logic and objectivity prove detrimental to the persuasiveness of her opinion piece.

Parker summarizes the show in the third paragraph by saying, “even mindlessness has its limits.”  In addition, Parker directs her aim at the audience for watching this “carnival sideshow” and proceeds to claim that irresponsible parenting practices has resulted in children not being taught societal values, such as the decency to not enjoy the disadvantages of others.  “Culturally, we are complicit in the decline of community values,” she says.  In Parker’s view, The article asserts that this nations Founders did not intend for the First Amendment to apply to reality TV.  Better TV, she says, can be found by flipping the channel to historical documentaries on Ancient societies, “when knowledge was valued as much as gold.”

However, the article is riddled with mischaracterizations and logical fallacies.  For example, Parker states that society, as either consumers or passive bystanders, are supporting the exploitation of “poor, uneducated people.”  The Oxford Dictionary defines exploitation as an act of treating someone unfairly in order to benefit from their work.  The Honey Boo Boo family receives $50,000 per episode.  Between the money they receive per episode and merchandising, their annual income categorizes them in the top 1% of wealth in the U.S.   In 2015, the average income of the typical American household was $55,775, so bear with me when say that I don’t feel too bad for the Honey Boo Boo family.  Undoubtedly, the usage of ‘exploitation’ when referring to the Southern family’s appearance on a reality TV program is a serious mischaracterization.

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Argument Style

 

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The family at an LSU football game last season.

The most recent argument I had can certainly be described as heated.  The Dallas Cowboys had just lost a playoff game to the Green Bay Packers, and, per usual, I received a post-game call from my brother who revels in antagonizing me.  A war of words ensued that began with my dismissal of the optically challenged referees and eventually ending with my annual season ending declaration that the Cowboys would win a Superbowl before his beloved Washington Redskins would even sniff relevancy.  While this adversarial argument style was quite the yelling match, it was also over a trivial matter and had become a situation common of our familial relationship.  The result typically and objectively ends with a hanging resolution to be picked up as early as the following day but never scarring our relationship; thus, argument serves the purpose of distracting us from a days worth of serious matters.

This argument style is characteristic of our relationship, but this is not always the case for many of my close relationships.  Each relationship is unique and expectations are quickly set in the form of internal or external boundaries.  My mom is an example of someone who sets internal boundaries defined by the passive delivery of her arguments in a consensual, civil fashion; therefore, an adversarial argument style from the opposition is neither productive nor beneficial.  While in a workplace environment, external boundaries are defined by social construct where it is inappropriate and unprofessional to have adversarial arguments with either a customer or work colleague.

My argument style is most impacted by my dad who uses both traditional and consensual argument styles.  Growing up in a confrontational Irish family, my dad learned to utilize a traditional argument style until he went to law school to learn the usage of consensual argument style that is standard in a professional setting.  In his experiential wisdom he possesses the ability to seamlessly switch from a using a traditional argument style to using a consensual argument style.  This ability to adapt to different settings and deliver both forms of argument style is one I personally strive to mimic.

I interchangeably utilize both traditional and consensual styles in arguments that are determined by factors such as audience, issue and setting .  Like my dad, I am very passionate and have a tendency to revert back to my primal urges and regress a consensual argument into a traditional argument at inappropriate times.  I can become more flexible by extending my knowledge in more areas, which would give myself a higher level of comfort and thus level-headedness while in a tense argument.

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