Monday, July 2, 2012

Salsa Dancing and Pentagon Papers

The first Monday back - sounds painful, right? Not for me! I woke up in good spirits and in a very political science mood. After much confusion, I called AP services and was ecstatic to learn that I scored a "3" on my AP United States History exam. I studied very hard for the exam and finding out my score made me even more anxious to get to class. One of the students in my class got a "5" on the AP United States History exam, so we congratulated each other and had a brief talk about U.S. History. I knew the day was off to a very good start.
Over the weekend, we read four Supreme Court cases that dealt with the issue of "protected freedom of speech." There are three ways Americans got civil liberties:
  • Bill of Rights
  • 14th Amendment 
  • Incorporation 
We had a small lecture about this before discussing the Supreme Court cases:
  • Gitlow v. New York - Mr. Gitlow published a communist manifesto and distributed it throughout the United States. However, he was simply stating his opinion about a communist uprising, although this could have prompted one. There was no evidence shown in the trial, but Mr. Gitlow was convicted anyways. The legal questions and answers for this case are: 1) Does the 14th Amendment apply to speech protection? (Yes) and 2) Should Mr. Gitlow's specific freedom of speech be protected? (No) 
  • Whitney v. California - The California Criminal Syndicalism Act prohibited anybody to knowingly become a member of any organization that advocated syndicalism, but mainly communist organizations. Anita Whitney had affiliated with the Communist Labor Party and was taken to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court drew a line between freedom of speech and expression of conspiracy. The legal question and answer for this case is: Did the California law violate the 14th amendment due process rights by abridging speech? (No) 
  • Dennis v. United States - Eugene Dennis was he General Secretary of the United States Communist Party, which generated pro-Communist revolution materials. Dennis wanted to organize and then teach groups on how to overthrow America's capitalist government, which violated the Smith Act. The legal question and answer for this case is: Does the Smith Act violate the 1st Amendment or other portion of the Bill of Rights? (No)
  • Brandenburg v. Ohio - Mr. Brandenburg was a Ku Klux Klan leader who asked a reporter to film a KKK rally. During the rally, KKK members were fully dressed, burned a cross, demanded all Jewish persons to return to Israel, called African-Americans derogatory names, and threatened to enact revenge against the government if they didn't recognize "white supremacy." The reporter filmed everything and then sent it to television stations. Brandenburg was charged and convicted. The legal question and answer for this case is: Does the Ohio Law violate Brandenburg's 1st amendment rights via the 14th amendment due process? (Yes) The Ohio criminal syndicalism act was later declared invalid. 
After the morning session I got lunch with friends and then went back to my dorm to start reading the next set of cases. The afternoon session was great; we got to sit back and watch two very interesting and gripping films.

  • The First Amendment Project - This film was hilarious; it depicted the Fox v. Franklin debacle. Mr. Franklin was in the midst of publishing a novel that was filled with political satire, and when the cover was released, Fox News was furious to see that Bill O'Reily was on the cover and being branded as a liar. During the movie, Mr. Franklin holds a press conference pretty much making fun of the whole ordeal. Fox launched a lawsuit against Franklin, claiming that the usage of the term "Fair and Balanced" on the cover was unfair. Over the next couple of months, Fox and Franklin engaged in a nasty war of words. However, Franklin got the last laugh by winning in court, seeing as though the judge stated that Fox's lawyer argued a weak case. 
  • The Most Dangerous Man in America - Most students can't sit still throughout an hour-and-half film, but this film kept my eyes on the screen the entire time. I was completely fascinated and didn't want to revert my eyes for fear of missing any information. The documentary focused on the life of Daniel Ellsburg, the Pentagon employee who made copies of the top-secret "Pentagon Papers" and leaked them to the New York Times in an attempt to stop the Vietnam War, reveal how Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, AND Johnson administrations had masked their true intentions about Vietnam to the public, and show how the Nixon administration was willing and ready to continue the tradition. The beginning of the film gave a brief introduction about Ellsburg's life but then moved on to his work in the Pentagon with the Johnson administration. His support for the Vietnam War decreased tremendously after a trip to Vietnam, his realization that the war was a lost cause for Americans, and his horror that American officials were willing to lie to the public by saying that the war effort was going by "fantastically." Ellsburg and his friend Daniel Russo, the president of RAND, found the Pentagon Papers, which revealed America's twenty year span of Vietnam policy. Ellsburg made several copies of the papers, even enlisting his children's help in xeroxing and cutting off "Top Secret" on the top of the papers. He and Russo leaked them to the NY times and seventeen other newspapers. The government tried to stop this publication but failed, as it violated 1st amendment rights. President Nixon was absolutely furious, as could be told in the recordings played over the course of the film (I found it slightly amusing the Nixon recorded himself). Ellsburg and his family went into hiding for 13 days after the leak, but he then surrendered to the public. Nixon ordered the break-in of Ellsburg's psychiatrist to obtain his file, which was revealed during Ellsburg and Russo's trial. The revelation of this led to an even wider investigation of the Watergate break-in. All charges against Ellsburg and Russo were dismissed, and Nixon resigned not soon after. 9 months after Nixon resigned, the Vietnam War ended. I thought of Daniel Ellsburg as a hero, a man who was willing to risk his life and spent the rest of it in prison to end a war and bring awareness to the country. 
After class, we had a meeting with Ms. L, and I'm so excited for the Boat Cruise tomorrow and the trip to Coney Island on the 4th. When the meeting was over, I had dinner before going back to my dorm to relax, sleep a little, and read more cases. Around 8, I started to get ready for Noche de Sabor, which was an on-campus fiesta in the Gazebo. There was lots of dancing and food. I went with Rowland, Morvarid, and Brittany, Lenny, Morvarid's suitemate Demi, and Lucas. I had a fantastic time; it was a great way to enjoy the eat, kick back, dance, and eat some salsa!

A little blurry, but before the party started!
Tres amigas (:
Morvarid and Demi!
Demi and I
Dre Dre and Momo!
Brittany and Morvarid
Sombrero time...having fun!
Mama Momo!
Rowland and I
(From left to right) Nancy, Khadijah, Talia, and I
After the party, I went back to my floor. I spent some time talking with Aurea, but later enjoyed the floor movie night. We had pizza and ice cream and watched 21 Jump Street, which was hilarious. I had a great night and can't wait for what's ahead.

An Eye-opening Experience

In my first class today, we discussed four Supreme Court cases regarding the extent to which the freedom of speech can be exercised. We wemt over the details of the cases Gitlow v. New York, Whitney v. California, Dennis v. United States and Brandenburg v. Ohio. I won't go over the specifics of each case, but I'll say that in the first three cases I was very surprised at the restrictions of free speech upheld by the Supreme Court. For example, if somebody wants to mail out pamphlets telling why communism is inevitable and why the United States government should become a communist regime, let him. Sure, the vast majority of us may believe he is wrong, but as history has shown, many advancements in our society have been made by people advocating for an idea which, at the time, was thought to be stupid, impossible, ridiculous, etc. (ex. an end to slavery, voting rights for women, etc.). Now, I'm not advocating for communism, I'm simply showing that many ideas, although sometimes commonly belived to be wrong, should be allowed for the advancement of science, culture, and quality of life in society. The majority of the time, ideas that actually are dumb (the idea that Barack Obama was born in Kenya do not catch on enough to have any significant impact on society, but occasionally, these ideas CAN help society, and because we allow them to be spread, voting rights today are not limited to only elite white men. I did not come up with this myself, by the way, this theory is just one of many we've discussed in class, and it is one reason for allowing free speech.
After my first class, I went to my room, did some work, and took a nap before going to lunch. Taking a nap between classes has ended up working perfectly for me so far; as it gets me the extra hour of sleep I was unable to get during the night and leaves me refreshed for my second class. On the other hand, I am missing valuable things like ethics talks while I am sleeping, but I can't do everything.
In my second class, we watched two videos, one hilarious and one fascinating. One was about the comical case of Fox News v. Al Franken. The video made fun mostly of Bill O'Reilly and Fox News, so I found it histerical. The second video was about a man, Dan Ellsbury, who gave top secret United States documents to newspapers across the country and nearly went to prisom for it. The papers were describing countless lies told to the American people by the United States government. I'm not going to give a synopsis of the movie, but I can say that the actions taken by Ellsbury represent a mentality of putting others before yourself, and a mentality which I believe far too few people in this world have. When asked by a reporter what he thought of possibly going to prison, Ellsbury replied perfectly, saying, "Wouldn't YOU go to prison to end this war?"
After my class, our cohort had a meeting wherewe reflected on our experience so far. Mrs. L asked to pick one work to describe our experience so far, and I chose "eye-opening" because I have gained so much knowledge in class about Constituional Law, in New York and in a social setting about people who for the most part come from completely different backgrounds than I do. I'll talk more extensively about this when I write my final blog.

I spent the next few hours on campus eating dinner and studying. Rather than doing my work in my room like I usually do, I was outdoors on campus doing all of my work today. I don't know why, but I enjoy this much more, and I work much faster tha I do in my room. I sat at a few spots on campus, and the photos below were taken from outside the Low Library. I believe I already took similar shots the other day, but those were at a different time of day, so here they are again.
After studying, I spent the rest of the day with my roommate and some of my floormates, just talking and walking around some near campus.

Dances, and the Dancing Dancers that Dance Them

We fell back into the class routine, today. It feels weird, after eating off campus everyday over the weekend to wake up early for the cafeteria. Like always, the breakfast was unappetizing. I don't know why, but they always have much better food in the afternoon than in the morning.

In the first class session, we went over cases involving the protection and extent of the first amendment. Many of the Supreme Court decisions were surprising. Between 1910 and 1960, the Justices vacillated constantly over the matters of free speech. Event the same individual judge would rule on one basis in one case and rule on a completely different ground in a similar case. It's interesting.

At lunch, I attended another ethics talk. This time, I was accompanied by Morvarid. The RA leading the discussions, Valerian, is very informative. He's good at supplying us with basic info on the beliefs of relevant philosophers, with out turning the forum into a lecture. Once again, we grappled with tricky hypothetical situations. While the last meeting focused on forcing us to question our initial responses to these dilemmas, this one had us question why we thought the way we did in the first place. This is standard philosophical teaching method: break down assumptions, find roots of ideas, expand from there, etc.

The second half of class was spent watching two movies on Freedom of Speech. The first, was a 30 minute segment on the failed Fox lawsuit against Al Franken for his book, Lies, and the Lying Liars that Tell Them. The video made it painfully clear how petty and groundless the lawsuit was, and it was great fun to watch. The second thing we watched was the documentary, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Files. For those unfamiliar with the case (as I was), Ellsberg worked for the Pentagon during the Vietnam war. He found out about how much the American people had been lied to by the various administrations since the war began, and decided to leak Top Secret information to the press. Ultimately, Ellsberg was tried for unlawful obstruction of government activities, but the charges were dropped.

After leaving class, meeting with Ms. Lilhanand and getting food, I decided it was time to check out the gym. I went with another student over to the Columbia Fitness Center. While he played basketball, I headed to the pool. I had forgotten until today how lousy I am at swimming; After a couple of laps, I was already tired. I ended up swimming for quite some time, despite being rusty. 

When I got back to my room, I had to quickly shower and get dressed. I was already late for Noche de Sabor (Night of Flavor). This was basically just a Latin dance party, held in the quad. I was afraid that not enough people would go, but the area was packed. There must have been at least half of the residential population there. It was a ton of fun. 

At about 10:15, the RAs shut off the music. I went back to the dorm, but found my room deserted, so I hung out with Lucas and his roommates for a while. 

Sorry, but because I stayed on campus, I didn't any photos today.


I'm so excited that it's been our second week at Columbia Unversity! Usually when you have fun, time goes by a lot faster. However, for some reason it feels like we've been here forever! I'm not complaining though, because I love every second of this experience. Columbia University is amazing! I've always been intrested in this school, but actually looking forward to waking up in the mornings to study in their classrooms and blend in with their students in their dorms just makes me want to stay here forever! Hopefully one day I may have the chance to actually study here...

I woke up at 7AM this morning to re-read my articles and refresh my mind on the topics discussed in each article. As soon as I finished reading, I worked a little on my research paper, tried to organize my sources, and ended off my work with a warm shower. The clock was approaching 9AM by this time and I quickly prepared to exit my room and meet up with my good friends Adrianne, Tomi, Aurea, and Brittany for breakfast. We only sat for a few minutes until we had to split up and approach our classes. Upon arrival to our first class, we discussed the research paper and one of the weekend articles. Time went by really fast today in class and it was already lunch in no time!

For our second session research seminar, I came across an area in the library that led upstairs to a very secluded study area. It was the most quiet section I've every witnessed in the Butler library so I was really excited to discover it. I sat in that area for most of my time and worked more productively than I ever was in the past week. I'm really determined to finish this paper by this sunday, so wish me luck! The only problems I've been having so far are;
1. I can't take home the books I find so I barely have the opportunity to absorb the information provided within them (well, as much as I'd like to of course).
2. Some of the books are at different libraries and I can't use them all at once.
3. For some reason I feel like I work a lot better at home (my dorm) alone than in the library. I'm a lot more focused in my dorm but in the Butler library, I get so drowsy for some reason!

Regardless of these issues, however, I am still determined to accomplish my goal or at least finish my paper around that specific date. This way, I will be completely satisfied and have an adequate amount of time to revise and review the paper to near perfection.

Now on a different note, tonight was Noche de Sabor! It was a latin celebration with food, music, and lots of dancing! Rowland, Adrianne, Brittany, Lenny, and I met at the Gazebo in the quad after finishing all my homework and awaited the traditional celebration by enjoying the music. Soon, more and more people arrived and it turned out to be a really fun and memorable night! I had a lot of fun with my friends and I'm really glad I attended the event. I just wish Aurea and Tomi were with us to complete our group! I'm sure they would have had lots of fun and we would have definitely enjoyed their company. They had a more productive day though, and I'm proud of them for prioritizing.

I Can't wait for class tomorrow! We're going to have a guest speaker and later than night we're going on a sunset cruise with Mrs.L!

Back to Basics

Unlike last weekend, today was really uneventful. I reverted to my basic morning routine of waking up early and studying before finally heading off to class. 

Today's morning class was lead by Jeffery, who began the class with a short lecture on the origin of our civil rights. We learned that civil rights can be traced back to three main sources: 

  1. The Bill of Rights: Which gave legal citizens their basic rights such as the freedom of speech.
  2. The 14th Amendment: Which made it unconstitutional to restrict any legal citizen's rights. 
  3. Incorporation: Which began the trend of the 14th Amendment being applied to the States. 
We then went onto review our weekend homework, with the central theme of the cases being the powers infringement of one's freedom of expression, due to accusations of incitement of destructive behavior towards the government. Amongst the cases we discussed today were Gitlow v. New York, Whitney v. California, and Dennis v. United States. 

As you may have guessed, lunch today was the same as always. I first had lunch with the girls in the cafeteria and then returned to my dorm room to start on my homework. 

For the afternoon session of class, we watched two films--The First Amendment Project and The Most Dangerous Man in AmericaThe First Amendment Project was about controversies surrounding the First Amendment, such as that between comedian Al Franken and Fox News reporter Bill O'Reilly over a dispute caused by Franken using a picture of O'Reilly on the cover of his book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. The second film, The Most Dangerous Man in America was a 2009 documentary about the scandal that occurred in 1971, when Daniel Ellsberg, the eponymous "most dangerous man", released the Pentagon Papers--top secret papers documenting controversial studies concerning the Vietnam War--to the New York Times. Both movies dealt with legal cases that we will be covering in class in the near future, Fox v. Franken and New York Times Co. v. United States respectively.  

After class came our daily meeting with Mrs. L, where we discussed the details of our boat trip tomorrow, as well as other upcoming events. When we finished discussing our plans, we then went onto talking about how we felt after our first week at Columbia. We were told to give an adjective that describes how we feel about the school, the people, the city and then explain why we chose that word. The words of my cohorts varied according to their personalities--their answers ranged from "amazing" to "crackin'". 

The word that I chose, while cliche, accurately describes my feelings about everything. My word was "unbelievable. Never in my life have I imagined myself at Columbia University, in New York City, or anyplace too far away from home. Just waking up knowing that I'm going to school with hundreds of equally bright and unique students or that Times Square is only a 20 minutes subway ride away is just too hard to believe. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I'm grateful for every second of it--even the "uneventful" parts. When the meeting was over, I ate dinner with the others and went back to my dorm to finish my homework with my newly arrived text book.

Although I said that today was uneventful, that was only in comparison to the past few days, which were admittedly a lot more exciting. I hosnelty appreciate very moment of my stay here, and I can't thank the Ivy League Connection enough for this opportunity. As I said before, this is once in a lifetime chance to enjoy this trip--and enjoy it I shall! 

Coffee or Sleep?

Another day, another class. Sleeping in on weekends does not help one’s school week schedule. Since my internal alarm clock does not wake up until 8 AM, I slept through my daily work-out routine once again. So after patiently waiting for my other suite mates to finish their showers, I finally got my turn. Once finished I headed down to breakfast with Morvarid, Adrianne, Tomi and Brittany. We didn’t socialize much during breakfast due to the late cramming of homework prior a few nights before.

So after a fairly quiet breakfast, we headed to our respective buildings for class. Our discussion today consisted of Abraham Lincoln and his interpretation of the Constitution. The article argued that Lincoln acted in constitutional aspiration; the Constitution holds universal laws in it that are meant for the betterment of society. The writer justifies Lincoln’s decision and execution of executive authority. Once our discussion ended, Professor Porwancher gave a mini lecture on how to do a proper research paper. He told us told us to cite every piece of information, even evidence we deem as common knowledge. Plagiarism is taken very seriously.

Then the usual routine of lunch and Butler Library came for me. I decided to go to the library stacks and sit down on the ninth floor to isolate myself from distractions. I will admit, I got more done here than usual it’s just so cold in the stacks. Also Butler Library stacks are a little bit scary when you’re alone. I also obtained a needed book for my research paper on George W. Bush. Hopefully, I have all the secondary resources that are essential to my paper. I really wished I could hold more books for myself or even take some with me to my dorm for some reading but Columbia permits me from doing so.

When I finished my second class, I met Ms. L at our usual meeting spot outside of the John Jay dining hall. Unfortunately for me I forgot my receipts and change to give to Ms. L for my meals on the weekend and I ran back to my dorm to obtain them for her. We then started our meeting today by explaining in one word how we felt so far. At first I wanted to use the word “confusing” because I didn’t exactly know my emotion but after a while I understand that my feelings were that of bafflement. For the rest of my cohorts, they’ve learned more about the culture around them especially those of people internationally. For me, I always had an understanding of different cultures and how to interact with others from living in city so my learning experience is more of myself. I’ve begun questioning what I want to do with my life and that my original plan is something that I might not want to pursue. Concluding our meeting today were individual check-ups with Ms. L again but only three people went today. So Morvarid, Adrianne and I will be venting on Friday.

Instead of socializing like most of the campus, I decided to be productive and fully understand my work. It’s also a great time to catch on some much needed sleep, which apparently I’m not getting enough of if my body’s telling me the right signs. It seems no matter how much sleep I get-or how much coffee I drink- I’m still drowsy. Peculiar, I know. So now my night will consist of blogs, homework, and sleep; let my temporary detachment from the social world begin..

Nap & Fun > Work

Napping and having fun aren't ACTUALLY priorities of mine over my schoolwork, but if anyone were to have played fly on the wall watching me today, they sure would have thought so.
After spending all of yesterday having fun, today was (supposed to be) a day of predominantly work. I have done my work by now, but I can't say it was the first thing I did, like I had planned. I woke up at around 9:30 AM to go to breakfast with two friends that I've made while here on campus. We went to some place serving crepes on Amsterdam Avenue about a minute away from campus, and I got a crepe which looked better suited for dessert than breakfast; but, then again, I'm not really complaining. I returned to my room at around 10:45, with a little over an hour to use for working before I was to go out again. I ended up taking a nap.
At 12 PM, I met with Aurea, Adrianne, Morvarid, Tomi, a few other kids and two RAs for a trip to the Museum of Natural History. We took the 1 down from 116th Street to 72nd Street and walked east a few blocks over to the western border of Central Park, which we walked alongside but would not visit until later in the day. We arrived at the Museum of Natural History at 79th Street and entered, paying $14.50 with our Columbia ID rather than the usual $19.00. The Museum of Natural History was amazing; I viewed everything from the fossils of dinosaurs to the Easter Island Moai. A museum is something that is viewed, not explained, so any attempt at trying to explain it would do it justice. For that reason, I'll let some of the pictures doing the explaining for this blog. I can say, though, that the there are tons and tons of information to discover at the museum, and that this was a fantastic experience for me. I was able to learn about the possible reasons dinosaurs went extinct, how dinosaurs evolved into the creatures roaming our planet today, how we human beings evolved from apes, and how Native American tribes of different areas adapted to their setting, among other things.

We did not leave the museum until about 3:30 PM, and while we could have eaten any time in the museum, we much preferred buying a hot dog at a hotdog stand somewhere and eating in Central Park. We left the museum and proceeded to do exactly that, finding a nice shady area (an unlimited number to choose from) and sitting down together to eat our food. After eating, we took a long, winding walk through the western side of Central Park, passing over lakes, and under the thick canopy of trees. We only covered a small area of the park, but Central Park is a beautiful place. We reached areas in the park where you could forget you were in New York City; there were buildings in the distance but otherwise no signs that there were millions of people around you. Like I said about the museum, though, Central Park is something that can be viewed and walked through, not explained or described in words. I had a fantastic time, though, and we came out of the park on 72nd Street, where we got the C south for one station to Columbus Circle, and the 1 up to Columbia from there.

As soon as I got back to the dorm, I changed clothes to go out the gym to play some basketball with my roommate. We have been talking about beating eachother all week, and while we did play today, we did not settle things because I did not win and I am supposed to win. We were in the gym for about an hour, and I got back to my room at about 6:30 PM, where I would get to work finally. I took a nap instead.
I woke up at around 8:15 PM, and after showering, got together some things so that I could go downstairs and do laundry. The laundry room, which can also be used as a sauna if you ever need one while on campus, had fewer washers than it did people needing to use them. I'd be ok with this if I were simply dealing with unfortunate circumstances, but there were 3 washing machines jammed with quarters, one with some other error, and (this is the one that pissed me off the most) wet, washed clothes left unattended in washers that other people need to use. I was ok with waiting a little while, but there were 3 or 4 washers that were filled with clean clothes the entire time I was waiting. AT one point, there were 5 washers full of unattended washers. If 4 of the washers are broken, 5 of them are being hogged by people who haven't thought that maybe other people need to use the washers, and there are only 16 washers, I get a little frustrated. Instead of working or eating (or napping), I was sitting in a sauna waiting my spot in line for people who had simply left their clothes unattended.  I considered putting up a sign that if people leave their clothes unattended for more than an hour in washers/dryers that need to be used, that I would donate their clothes to Goodwill, but I was too lazy to make a sign. Also, that might be a bit too provocative. And it also really wasn't that big of a deal; I just complain sometimes.
Anyway, I started the washer at about 9:30 PM, with far less than enough time for the washer and dryer to do their complete cycles; however, I was able to take my clothes out right before curfew.
Then I cam up to my room to find that my suitemates had ordered Chinese food. The rest of the day was simple things like eating, blogging, and homework.