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President Obama

OPINION

College student reacts to State of the Union speech: ‘He doesn’t believe in us, and I don’t believe in him.’

I was a freshman in high school when I watched the State of the Union address in 2010, during which President Barack Obama proclaimed that the Affordable Care Act “would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan.”

Today, as a freshman at The George Washington University, I was anxious to see if the Commander in Chief of the free world was a big enough man to own up to his mistakes.

He wasn’t.

All the president did Tuesday night was tout the few silver linings of Obamacare, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions and staying on your parents’ healthcare plan until age 26.

But there was no mention of the 5.3 million cancellation notices sent to unsuspecting Americans because of the new health care law. No mention of the Americans who abruptly learned over the last few months that if they liked their plan, they couldn’t keep their plan.

“If you like your health care plan, you can keep it” was the PolitiFact 2013 Lie of the Year. Those Americans deserve an apology for being lied to. Unfortunately, we didn’t see that tonight. Where was the apology, Mr. President?

As a college student, I was also incredulous as I listened to the president lay out his desire to improve students’ access to higher education, but never once bother to mention skyrocketing tuition costs, which have inexplicably risen far beyond the rate of inflation under his two terms, burdening young people with massive student debt.

And I’ll tell you why he didn’t touch that issue – because he has done nothing to quell the real problem surrounding higher education – higher costs.

Journalists and political analysts will tell you that a State of the Union can’t change the direction of a presidency. #SOTU2014 didn’t deter from that proclamation. In past SOTU addresses, President Obama has gone with the route of empty rhetoric and broken promises. This year was much of the same old, same old.

One of the first things President Obama said he wanted to do this new year is “reverse the trends” of unemployment and economic instability, and create “new ladders of opportunity into the middle class.”

Unfortunately, these negative economic trends have persisted throughout his presidency. How will a new year change anything when he just wants to use the same approaches and policies? After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

The president called for more “investment” to rebuild America’s infrastructure – something he has mentioned in each of his SOTU addresses, but has never delivered upon, except for failed federal bailouts.

Unfortunately, President Obama wants to circumvent Congress to take executive action (“without legislation,” in his words) in implementing his desired policy initiatives, such as immigration reform. The bottom line, Mr. President, is the Constitution is in place to prevent you from doing whatever you want. It’s meant to prevent tyranny.

President Obama also took credit for the winding down of the Afghanistan War, when in reality he simply used President George W. Bush’s timeline for an exit strategy. He was dishonest tonight when he took credit for that.

President Obama also called for “prudent limits on the use of drones,” but failed to elaborate on how he intends to quell the anger and violation other nations feel when the United States violates their sovereignty by launching drones within their borders.

Finally, President Obama committed himself to “slashing the backlog” for veterans’ benefits. But the problem is, this backlog has only increased since he’s been in office. If it were really a priority for him, why didn’t he address it before?

In the words of Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA): “We are not defined by our limits, but by our potential.”

Sadly, President Obama does the opposite with the country he leads, defining us by our limits and never giving us the opportunity to rise to our potential. He doesn’t believe in us, and I don’t believe in him.

College Fix contributor Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.

IMAGE: YouTube Screenshot

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OPINION: My peers, our very freedom is at stake. Let 2014 be the year we take action.

“All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable,” Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience, 1849

America was forged from civil disobedience, and Founding Fathers and scholars have long asserted its importance in maintaining viable democracies.

Today, civil disobedience helps keeps our oversized government and power-hungry politicians in check, and held accountable.

Yet the American who most recently stood up to government tyranny, corruption and abuse of power is now hunted by his own country.

Last June, we learned from whistleblower and Information Technology contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency unconstitutionally tracks data on all Americans – cell phone records, social media posts, emails, Internet searches – you name it, the spies at the NSA probably have a record of it.

Instead of acknowledging its overreach of power and taking strong measures to scale it back, President Barack Obama’s administration has staunchly defended the tactics. Meanwhile, the verdict is mixed: recent federal court rulings have rendered one in favor of the NSA surveillance, and one against.

And now, after an initial period of outrage, the story has largely died down, and the anger, sense of personal intrusion, and urgency for reform, has ebbed.

We’re still upset, but it’s slowly transformed into a way of life for us. What can we do, we ask? It’s become a joke: “We know you’re reading this, NSA …”

That, my peers, is a problem. We must apply pressure, demand justice and reveal the truth wherever possible – host campus rallies, write columns for our school newspapers, send letters and emails to our congressional representatives, and support lawmakers who actively work to protect our freedoms, among other measures. The youth vote is a powerful tool.

Our message? That Snowden is an American hero, and Obama is a hypocrite who snubs the very constitution he swore to protect.

The Fourth Amendment clearly states: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

It is not constitutional for the U.S. government to wiretap without a warrant. It is not constitutional for the U.S. government to look at our Internet searches without a warrant. It is not constitutional for the U.S. government to invade our privacy without probable cause.

Contrary to popular belief, Snowden is a hero because he was brave enough to tell us that the U.S. government is violating our Fourth Amendment rights.

Those on the other side of the debate claim Snowden put our national security at risk.

That claim could not be further from the truth. We face real security threats not from whistleblowers or information leakers, but from extreme government secrecy and overreach which trample on the Constitution.

Just seven months after President Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, the Obama Administration announced that it intends to prosecute Snowden under charges of espionage. This also came just a few years after Obama himself praised whistleblowers as “noble” and “patriotic” during his 2008 campaign for president.

It is clear that President Obama and his allies on the left want to silence those who expose government secrets which are harmful to his personal political situation. President Obama has clearly misled the young voters who secured his place in the Oval Office.

Just seven months after President Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, his administration announced its intention to prosecute Snowden under charges of espionage. This also came just a few years after Obama himself praised whistleblowers as “noble” and “patriotic” during his 2008 campaign for president.

It was then-Sen. Barack Obama who, in 2006, said on the Senate floor: “We need to find a way forward to make sure that we can stop terrorists, while protecting privacy and liberty of innocent Americans.”

Then-candidate Obama, on his campaign website in 2008, even denounced the Bush Administration for using the very same national security tactics he is expanding upon: “Such acts of courage and patriotism… should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration. We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance.”

Snowden essentially revealed that President Obama is using the very same tactics he campaigned vehemently against when George W. Bush used them. And now, Obama aims to abuse the Espionage Act to further his goals of unconstitutional overreach by prosecuting Snowden.

We, as college students, should be angry at this. Technological advances continue at an astronomical rate. We must draw the line in the sand before Big Brother literally monitors our living rooms. This is our future privacy in jeopardy. We must demand it be reined in before it expands further and becomes the norm.

Some students blindly defend Obama’s spy tactics, when they also decried the same less-invasive tactics used by the Bush Administration. Wake up!

“Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?” Thoreau wrote in Civil Disobedience:

“Men generally, under such a government as this, think that they ought to wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter them. They think that, if they should resist, the remedy would be worse than the evil. But it is the fault of the government itself that the remedy is worse than the evil. It makes it worse. Why is it not more apt to anticipate and provide for reform? Why does it not cherish its wise minority? Why does it cry and resist before it is hurt? Why does it not encourage its citizens to be on the alert to point out its faults, and do better than it would have them?”

College students: Get angry, take action in 2014!

College Fix contributor Andrew Desiderio is a student at The George Washington University.

IMAGE: Bruckeelb/Flickr

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It’s been three months since President Barack Obama debuted his making college affordable plan, and reception to the proposal remains chilly and skeptical.

When President Obama sent his Undersecretary of Education Martha Kanter to California last week to sell his ideas, they were met with resistance from several students and professors at a Cal State Dominguez Hills forum, where some said the plan could negatively effect low-income students and create more problems than it aims to solve, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“They are cures worse than the disease,” one history professor proclaimed about the proposal, which calls for a new campus ratings system based on factors such as average tuition rates, student debt, graduation and transfer rates, and the percentage of low-income students receiving federal Pell grants.

Under the proposal, students who attend higher-ranked colleges would be eligible for larger and cheaper federal loans. But critiques from both Republicans and Democrats abound.

Some warn college officials may engage in grade inflation or falsity data to gain a better federal ranking. Others suggest the proposal would promote cheap online classes and largely benefits businesses, not students. The plan would also create a new level of bureaucracy and government regulation, according to naysayers. Still there are those who suggest an arbitrary college-ranking system could curtail innovation and possibly lead to federal price controls.

At the recent Cal State forum, Thomas Fallo, president of El Camino College, said Obama’s plan would hinder low-income students who can only really choose the college that’s closest to them geographically, regardless of its federal ranking.

And David Feldman, chairman of the economics department at the College of William & Mary, has warned of the proposal: “They have to be really careful that they don’t provide perverse incentives for schools to discriminate against the kinds of students” they are trying to help.

The plan comes at a time when federal student debt has increased significantly over the past few years – an increase of 463 percent since President Obama took office in 2009.

But the plan does not address what many contend is the true cause of that increase: which is that the federal government subsidizes the college-loan industry, giving colleges an incentive to raise tuition costs, as administrators know the government can pay whatever each student cannot afford.

Meanwhile, the prospects of Obama’s plan passing a dysfunctional and gridlocked Congress are very slim, especially since, as the plan sits now, it would not take effect until two years after Obama leaves office. It remains to be seen when the proposal will go before Congress, but it has yet to be schedule for a hearing.

Fix contributor Andrew Desiderio is a student at George Washington University.

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The College Fix has identified college students from across the nation who agreed that if the U.S. government were to end its unconstitutional surveillance state and warrantless spy programs tomorrow – and the students were to die a month later in some sort of terrorist bombing – they would count their death as the justifiable price for freedom and liberty in America.

Take Hassan Sheikh, a 26-year-old libertarian working on his law degree at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., who told The Fix he would definitely be willing to sacrifice the government’s assurances of security for the reinstitution of constitutional rights, even if that results in his death.

“All across the world … our armed forces put their lives in harm’s way to protect our way of life,” Sheikh says. “Why is it so ludicrous that ordinary citizens might give up the protections of domestic surveillance so that when our veterans return, they come back to the same America?”

Most of the students who agreed to the hypothetical scenario presented to them by The Fix are budding leaders in various liberty movements and groups on college campuses.

Among those students is Adam Wolter, 19, a self-described libertarian Republican studying software engineering at Iowa State University, who said he would “certainly consider my death in a terrorist attack justifiable for the preservation of freedom.”

Wolter went on to say that, as a software programmer, he sees “big data” as far more dangerous to “our safety and freedom” than terrorist attacks. As soon as data collection snowballs into larger and more comprehensive pieces, the constitutional freedoms that Americans enjoy will discontinue, Wolter said.

Bennett Morris, a 23-year-old liberty-leaning Republican and Illinois State University grad, also told The Fix that “I would much rather die having been free than die a slave to the police state.”

Morris said NSA’s security apparatus sacrifices freedom and privacy for the canard of security, adding Americans are probably more likely to be killed by a police officer than by a terrorist. Morris argued terrorism is too rare an action to warrant the abrogating or curbing of constitutional freedoms.

Kristie Constabileo, a 23 year-old libertarian attending William Rainey Harper College, echoed her peers’ sentiments.

Constabileo says she considers American liberty and freedom—as laid out by America’s Founding Fathers—to be sacrosanct and non-negotiable. With that in mind, she urges people not to take constitutional rights for granted when balancing security and freedom, saying “I hope that everyone would agree that our personal freedoms should not be so easily taken away.”

Elliot Young, a 20-year-old libertarian working toward an economics degree at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., said that “with all liberty there is a price.”

“There is a semblance of danger in liberty and freedom,” he said. “It is something that is unavoidable.”

In total, The College Fix interviewed 13 students via email and telephone for the survey, most of whom agreed to the hypothetical scenario that in the event that the U.S. surveillance state ended its unconstitutional activities the students would count their death in a subsequent terrorist attack as a justifiable price for freedom and liberty.

However a few students said that while they were inclined to agree with the notion that liberty is more important than a security state, they found it difficult to wholly commit to the idea of a hypothetical death. Other students agreed, but declined to have their names published.

The students were posed the question in the wake of ongoing revelations that began in June with whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosures about various National Security Agency programs that track and analyze Americans’ cell phone calls and personal Internet activity.

In defense of its programs, the NSA—as well as President Obama—has explained there are filters in place to prevent the abuse of gathered data, which, the NSA says, helps strike an appropriate balance between security and constitutional freedoms.

Many top Republicans, including former President Bush – who led the charge for the approval of the Patriot Act in 2001 in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks – have also defended the surveillance tactics as a necessary part of keeping Americans safe.

The Patriot Act is what is cited by the feds today to justify their surveillance programs, however many scholars disagree with the constitutionality of their arguments, calling the spy programs a violation of Americans’ First and Fourth amendment rights.

As the tumult around the National Security Agency swirls, more and more young Americans have voiced frustration with increasingly troublesome news of how the NSA programs operate and what data is collected and analyzed.

Various news reports in just the last week have disclosed that the NSA has dramatically increased its communications gathering techniques, and is capable of sifting, mining and recording 75 percent of all Internet traffic in the name of targeting foreign terrorism cells; that the agency has repeatedly misled the court that oversees its American surveillance operations; and that it agents have collected tens of thousands of emails with no connection whatsoever to terrorism.

In fact NSA officers, according to Wall Street Journal reports, have, over the course of a decade, used their vast surveillance capabilities to spy on lovers and love interests. The occurrences of NSA officers spying on loved ones is frequent enough to warrant the NSA giving said occurrences the label of “LOVEINT.”

College students and Millennials have become some of the most prominent groups of citizens voicing their concerns over the situation, deeming it an encroachment on personal privacy and constitutional liberties.

The students cited in this article, in emails with The College Fix, say they understand they are echoing the ideals of those such as Benjamin Franklin’s ”He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither” and Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

Fix contributor Christopher White is a University of Missouri graduate student, an editorial assistant for The College Fix, and Missouri state chairman of Young Americans for Liberty. He may be reached at [email protected].

CLICK HERE to Like The College Fix on Facebook / TWITTER: @CollegeFix

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     With the massive support most Millennials have thrown behind President Barack Obama over the years, it almost seems as if the president has cast a spell over these young voters.
     Well, says one professor, maybe he has – with a little help from Harry Potter.
     A recent media effects study conducted by University of Vermont political science Professor Anthony Gierzynski has found the iconic Harry Potter book series “played a small but not insignificant role” in electing Obama, the educator says.
     “The lessons fans internalized about tolerance, diversity, violence, torture, skepticism and authority made the Democratic Party and Barack Obama more appealing to fans of Harry Potter in the current political environment,” Gierzynski says in email to The College Fix.
     The story of Harry Potter helped shape in young readers a positive attitude toward tolerance and diversity, a disdain for violence, and a healthy dose of skepticism for authority, the professor’s research found.
     However, the Harry Potter series was one of a number of contributing factors that helped get Obama elected in 2008, certainly not the most important, Gierzynski says.professor
     To reach his conclusions, between 2009 and 2011 Gierzynski interviewed more than 1,000 Millennial-aged college students at seven universities across the nation. The survey included the books and movies, and interviewed students with all sorts of interaction with the series: those who hadn’t read it, those who had seen the movies, and those who were superfans were all surveyed.
     He recently published his findings in an 82-page, peer-reviewed book “Harry Potter and the Millennials: Research Methods and the Politics of the Muggle Generation.”
     When asked by The College Fix if Harry Potter was a Democrat and Voldermort a Republican, Gierzynski declined to answer directly, but did acknowledge some of the notions in the book “tend to line up with certain sides in the current climate.”
     “Attitudes in opposition to the use of violence, torture and deadly force came to be associated with the Democrats at the end of the Bush years, mainly in opposition to Bush administration policies and failures in these areas,” he says. “The opposition to equal marital rights for same-sex couples and immigration reform by the Republicans put those who support political tolerance … and those who are more accepting of diversity on the side of the Democrats.”
     While Harry Potter is not a political work, literature is embedded with the values and perspectives of the writer, and media effects are a natural impact of story telling; the magical/muggle world of Harry Potter is one that transmitted political lessons to the Millennial generation that grew up devouring its pages, Gierzynski says.
     For example, one lesson Harry Potter fans learned is “Diversity and Acceptance; Or Don’t Judge People (or Creatures) By Their Appearance or Blood,” according to Chapter One of the book. The villains in Harry Potter’s world believed half-human/half-wizards were beneath them, indeed a scourge on society, but Harry befriended those rejected or considered outcasts, including mythical creatures such as elves, treated as slaves by most characters in the book.
     “Again and again, whether it is ignoring status as a pure-blood to judge individuals on the quality of their character, or simply courtesy toward any person regardless of their appearance or societal position, the tale of the boy wizard teaches it is good to reserve judgment, to be open to those who are different,” the book states. “By contrast, the stories’ antagonists are often quick to make judgments and be quite vocal in their bigotry.”
     As a result, the survey found Harry Potter fans tended to value notions of tolerance, acceptance and equality. Overall, 60 percent of the Millennials surveyed who read the series voted for President Obama in 2008, and a whopping 83 percent of the series’ readers viewed the Bush administration unfavorably.
     Gierzynski cautioned there are several different factors that could have played into the study’s results, including that college campuses are already generally liberal, which could have skewed the demographic.
     This is not the first time Gierzynski, a political science professor who specializes in political parties, elections and mass media, has probed the effects of entertainment on people’s political views. In the past, he has led research seminars at the university on subjects such as Star Wars and South Park.

     “I think this will open the door to more inquiries into other pop culture phenomena,” he says of his book.
     Gierzynski’s current projects include research into the impact of villains of science fiction and fantasy on attitudes about criminal justice and terrorism, as well as the impact of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report on skepticism versus cynicism.
     Meanwhile, the professor has some advice for Republicans.
     “Republicans could win back some Millennial Harry Potter fans if they move away from the far right side of their party,” he says.
Fix contributor Haley Littleton is a student at Colorado Christian University.
IMAGE: Professor Anthony Gierzynski

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My name is Christopher D. White, author of the article published last week on The College Fix that highlighted the U.S. Secret Service’s rude and ill treatment of six Missouri College Republicans at an Obama speaking engagement at the University of Central Missouri.

For those unfamiliar with the controversy, allow me to delve into some particulars.

Last Wednesday, members of the Missouri College Republicans were cordoned off to the UCM “public speech area,” far from the recreation center used to house President Obama and his audience, to protest the deleterious policies promulgated by our current president.

After a long day of peaceful demonstrations, the College Republicans decided, about 20 minutes before the president was scheduled to give his talk at 4 p.m., that they would, with tickets in hand, head toward the recreation center to watch the speech.

Nowhere on the ticket, a copy of which was provided to The Fix, stated a cutoff time for admittance.

The young Republicans, dressed in politically partisan Tea-Party t-shirts and College Republican attire, were stopped by a member of President Obama’s security detail and told to turn around, that the doors to the recreation center were shut and locked, rendering their tickets worthless.

The reason stated can be summed up simply: for the safety of the president, two separate students turned away from the event told The Fix.

In the wake of outrage over the news that these Republican students were rejected from the speech, University of Central Missouri and the Secret Service pushed back recently against my initial article.

University officials did not respond to my phone call seeking comment, but did take their case to the New York Daily News, telling the newspaper: “No one who presented a ticket was turned away prior to all doors being locked in accordance with Secret Service procedures.”

Having arrived about 20 minutes before the president was supposed to deliver his speech, the students were not late for the event, but rather came after the Secret Service decision to close and lockout ticket-holding audience members.

An interesting aside – the president did not speak until 5:30 p.m., nearly two hours after the students were turned away from the locked event. Indeed, when the students were rejected, POTUS had yet to arrive in the state of Missouri.

Another response to the students’ claims came way of Secret Service Spokesman Brian Leary, who told Fox News the rec center doors were locked because the event had reached maximum capacity, saying: “The event at University of Central Missouri was closed to any additional general public due to the event site reaching maximum capacity.”

However the students had tickets to said event, as evidenced by the image shown here. ticket

Student Debby Huebert, who was with the Missouri College Republicans, gave her version of events to The College Fix in an email on Saturday, saying as they headed to the event, they were stopped in their tracks. When they explained to the agent they had tickets, he told them “it doesn’t matter, the doors are closed and locked. No one else can get in,” she stated.

Huebert goes on to note:

We were all very surprised; this was definitely the last thing we expected to hear. While we sat there talking amongst ourselves about what to do next, the officer suddenly spoke up and said, ‘Listen, it doesn’t matter if the president is Democrat or Republican, the secret service has a duty to protect the president and it’s as simple as that.’ We looked at him in surprise, because none of us said anything to the contrary.

This was the only reason we were given for being turned away at the door. No one said anything about lack of space or being there late … In fact, we were stopped at 3:43 pm. I remember because I looked at the time on my phone and said, ‘Come on guys, I don’t want to be late!’ To my knowledge, people were even leaving early anyway because it was so hot in there and the president was VERY late. We later discovered that he hadn’t even landed yet when we were stopped!

So people were leaving early – the doors were not locked.

People were leaving early – there were seats to spare.

The College Republican students had tickets to the event – and the agent knew they were Republican, as evidenced by his comment that it wasn’t about politics.

POTUS was running extremely late, and with today’s technology, his security detail was well aware of that. And here, a patriotic group of students just wanted a glimpse of the president of the United States, wanted to hear him speak.

That is saying something. They should have been let in.

As an aside, the University of Central Missouri also failed to address student concerns about its “public speech area” policy, the ramifications it has for free speech rights, the chilling effect it has on freedom of expression, and its overall dismissive attitude toward political viewpoints deemed outside of the mainstream.

While it is important that the Secret Service ensure the safety of the president while traveling to universities, the question remains: was it appropriate for the Secret Service and the university to redirect all protesters hundreds of yards away from the recreation center? No.

That opinion is shared by tens of thousands of college students across the country.

University of Missouri student Jake Loft, an active Republican (who was unable to attend the Warrensburg event), told the College Fix “the fact that there is a ‘public speech area’ is an infringement on our basic right to free speech. Doesn’t our right to free speech follow us wherever we go?”

I should hope so.

Shunting young protesters—regardless of political persuasion—off into a barren hinterland, devoid of human contact, in hopes that his or her voice will never reach the ears of an offended person, seems the height of intolerance.

UCM and its “public speech area” policies during presidential visits is ostensibly saying that their students can have freedom of speech—but only in prescribed areas of the administration’s choosing and if no one hears what they have to say.

This prescription raises an important note: in order for something to be considered free, it must not be restrained.

Going forward, I certainly hope that the Secret Service tweaks its attitude toward persons who appear to hold different political ideas than the president who they are protecting, and I hope that the UCM considers throwing their “public speech areas” onto the scrap heap of human history.

Fix contributor Christopher White is a University of Missouri graduate student, an editorial assistant for The College Fix, and Missouri state chairman of Young Americans for Liberty. He may be reached at [email protected].

CLICK HERE to Like The College Fix on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter: @CollegeFix

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