Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Growing Through Brick Battlements

I woke up two hours before my class started. This was partly so I could take a shower in the morning, but mostly because that's when my roommate's alarms went off. Needless to say, I had plenty of time to get ready for class.

 Today's case topics were centered around capital punishment (as well as the 5th and 6th amendments). Like essentially all other subjects, the Supreme Court vacillated from case to case. The various justices throughout the decades disagreed on whether capital punishment was a cruel and unusual punishment, or a justified response to capital crimes. Personally, I think that it's a cruel and archaic way of dealing with major crimes, but that's open to debate.

I grabbed some food from the cafeteria, at the beginning of lunch, but spent the rest it in my room, studying. We had a test scheduled for the second half of class, so I thought a review might be necessary.

Studying paid off, because I got a perfect score on the test, as well as one of the extra credit questions. We had our second Constitutional Jeopardy game today. My team (Team High 5) did well towards the middle, and were in second place for a while, but we lost pretty badly towards the end.

After meeting with Ms. L. for a while after class, I went back to my dorm to meet with some friends. We went down a few blocks to get food at an Italian restaurant, and then bought chocolate from Westside Market. We got back on campus around 6:00 PM.

Today was the night of the Talent Show, which started at 7:30. There were a lot of excellent acts, and I even knew some of the other performers. A friend from my floor sang and Adrianne read a poem. I was one of the last acts, and I decided to read the same poem from the Open Mic Night. My execution improved dramatically since that last performance. I wasn't sure if the audience would be too interested in listening to poetry, but it got a really good reception.

After the show I met with some friends and hung out in their dorm until curfew.

The Hypocrisy of Capital Punishment

In terms of how much I did today that was different my normal routine, today was pretty ordinary. The content, though, of my classes was very interesting. In my first class, we went over 5th, 6th and 8th Amendment rights, as determined by the Supreme Court in Gideon v. Wainwright, Miranda v. AZ, Furman v. GA, McClesky v. Kemp, and Payne v. TN. While I found each to be interesting, the cases involving the death penalty (Payne v. TN, McClesky v. Kemp and Furman v. GA) particularly interested me, as I have been strongly against the death penalty for years now. In Furman v. GA, the Supreme Court was asked specifically whether or not the death penalty was a violation of the 8th Amendment, and disturbingly (but unsurprisingly), the Supreme Court ruled that killing a man as punishment for him killing a man is not a cruel or unusual punishment. Of course, for someone to receive the death penalty, they must have done something sick; it is almost entirely reserved for murderers (and sometimes rapists, although I'm not sure). Yet, is that justification for murdering them back? While the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional in this case, only two of the judges agreed that it was unconstitutional under all circumstances.

I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court on the matter of the death penalty. The death penalty, as we discussed in class, is based entirely off of the principle that two wrongs make a right. Punishment for crime, I would like to think, is to deter the criminal from committing the crime again and to deter others from committing crimes as well. The death penalty, though, is no difference from a life sentence in deterring a crime. Instead, the death penalty relies solely on the principle of retribution (basically, "you did bad, so you deserve to have bad done to you"), as if one wrong can be undone with another wrong. It is complete hypocrisy for the government to tell society that if a man kills another man, it is murder and it is wrong, but that if the government kills someone, that murder is perfectly acceptable. Complete hypocrisy. And going back to the "two wrongs do not make a right" argument, I hate to use this quote because it is used so frequently and seems a little cliched, but as Gandhi once famously said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." In other words, retibution takes us even further away from our original vision. I kind of had a variation of these views in my head before this class, but today's lesson allowed me to put them onto paper in a way that they show up as a clear argument.
For the most part, capital punishment is acceptable in America.

After class, I went into my usual midday routine: an hour-long nap, lunch, and then about a 30-minute session of work. That session of work will involve different work every day, sometimes an early start to my blog, sometimes debate prep, sometimes a start on the night's reading; but today, I was studying for my quiz. I reviewed all the cases we had read, and felt pretty confident when I entered class. I ended up doing very well on the quiz, and after the quiz, we moved on to a game of Constitutional Jeopardy, which, if you didn't read the blog a few weeks ago, is basically Jeopardy with categories like "Justices," "Search and Seizure," "Death Penalty," etc. I didn't do nearly as well as I did last time we played, but I still did my part to help the team, racking about a fifth (team of 5) of our team's 3199 points, good enough for 2nd place.
After class, the rest of my day had nothing too out of the ordinary; I joined some friends, once in the afternoon and once at night before curfew, for a game of this frisbee-golf like team game. I ate dinner and lunch. I went to one of those friends' dorms to play some 2K12 (basketball), which I sucked at because I don't own video games. I also left campus for a while to go buy some postcards to mail to my family. Aside from that, though, my day was pretty routine. Not that I'm not having fun; I am having a blast. However, I'm actually very sad because I'm still meeting new people every day, and all these friends I am slowly becoming very close with are about to be friends living 3000 miles away, or across the world from me. For a number of reasons, I'm very sad this program is ending; these three weeks have passed so fast! And only two days left! I'll make sure to make the most of them.
The view from our 7th floor classroom

HSP's Got Talent

Once again, I'm back to my basic morning routine of wake up, get dressed, study, and head to class. 

The topics of today were the rights of the accused, as well as the constitutionality of the death penalty. Jeffery went over related cases as usual, such as Gideon v. Wainwright, Furman v. Georgia, Payne v. Tennessee, and Miranda v. Arizona. You actually may be more familiar with the holdings of these cases than you think. For example, I'm sure that we've heard a police officer recite this monologue at least once before; "You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you, and that you have the right to an attorney and that if you cannot afford one, one will provide one for you." These rights are referred to as the "Miranda Rights", and it was the case Miranda v. Arizona that decided that in order to insure due process of the law,  all guilty parties must be made aware of their rights upon arrest. 

My lunch, just like my morning, followed my basic routine of eating lunch with my usual group and then studying in my dorm room. 

The afternoon class, was of course taught by Luke. The first half of class was spent taking our final quiz--which I'm proud to say that I aced! During the later half, we played yet another game of Constituional Jeopardy. Today's game was really intense; by the end of the game, my team ended up losing in a three way time for last place. The "underdogs", on the other hand, ended up winning by 4,000 points--they literally ended up going from zero to hero in the last round!

After the game, Luke decided to let the class our early. I rested for a bit, and then left my room to meet with Mrs. L and the others. Today, our meeting mainly focused on what we wanted squeeze in before we leave on Friday, along with our plans for Saturday. 

Another important thing we talked about was time management. After hearing about all the all-dayers/nighters pulled last Sunday, as well as hearing about Morvarid's and Aurea's progress on their papers, Mrs. L thought it would be a good idea for us to have a moment of self-reflection in order to help us get our priorities straight. I already know that I'm a procrastinator, and that I need to really work on that, but for some reason I always end up putting that off... In all seriousness, however, I'm going to make more of an effort to try to get my work done earlier and more efficiently, because if there's one thing I hate it's having to rush through an already stressful project just because I was feeling lazy earlier. 

いただきます! (Itadakimasu!)
After our meeting, the girls and I decided to change things up a bit. Instead of eating in John Jay's dining hall like we usually do, we decided to eat out at a nearby Japanese restaurant called Vine. The food there was really good--I had beef sukiyaki with a side of white rice. 

Since both Adrianne and Lenny had decided to enter the High School Program's talent show, I decided to in order to give them moral support. They both recited poetry, and while their styles are very different from one another I really enjoyed them both. All of the other acts were fantastic as well--RAs and students alike displayed their talents upon the stage. They had practically everything singers, guitarists, comedians--even professional a yo-yo trickster. However, my favorite performance by far was by the RAs who danced to Beyonce's Single Ladies. The lead girl was a great dance and followed the steps perfectly, but her two male back up dancers barely even knew what they were doing and it was hilarious. 

When the talent show was over, Adrianne and I decided to go visit Aurea in Butler Library in order to give her some "moral support" as well. Since I have yet to take U.S. History, I wasn't much help to Aurea in anyway other than proofreading her paper, but I'm sure that she appreciated the company at least!

Today turned out to be a lot more fun than I had expected, which is really great since I want to pack as much fun as I can into these last few days. As of know, there's less than two and a half days separating me and home--though I'm not sure of whether I'm happy or sad about this fact. 

Overcoming my fears

I woke up a bit late this morning but I was able to get dressed, eat breakfast, and get to class in a reasonable amount of time. It's nice how the class is becoming more united but very sad because the end is really close! Here are descriptions of the cases we went over today. They either dealt with 4th amendment violations or the death penalty. 
  • Miranda v. Arizona - An 18-year-old woman was kidnapped and raped. Police arrested Ernesto A. Miranda, a 23 year old who suffered from extreme poverty, had a 9th grade education, and was later diagnosed as schizophrenic. The rape victim identified Miranda as her attacker, and after a 2 hour interrogation by the police, Miranda confessed to the crime and wrote out a statement. However, Miranda's attorneys claimed that his confession was coerced by the police during the interrogation process.
  • Gideon v. Wainwright - Gideon was a rambler that was in and out of jail. He was convicted of breaking and entering into a poolroom in Florida. He claimed to be too poor to afford an attorney and requested one. The judge refused. Gideon served a 5 year sentence but mailed a petition. Before this case, it had been decided that only "special cases" could receive an attorney if they were too poor to afford one. Gideon's petition overturned this.
  • Furman v. Georgia - William Furman was sentenced to death for murder. His attorney appealed to the Supreme Court, who struck down Georgia's law for imposing capital punishment. Justice Brennan dissented, stating that the death penalty treats people like non-humans, is arbitrary, unacceptable in modern times, excessive, and not needed. 
  • McClesky v. Kemp - Mr. McClesky, a black man, was convicted of two counts of armed robbery and one of murder. The S.C. affirmed his conviction and sentences. However, he filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
  • Payne v. Tennessee - Mr. Payne, a borderline retarded man, was waiting on his girlfriend to return after a day of work. He went out and did cocaine and got very drunk. When he went across the hall of her apartment complex, he tried to make sexual advances on a woman and she refused. In response, Mr. Payne stabbed her 84 times with a butcher knife, killing her from a mass loss of blood. He then killed her 2 year old daughter and stabbed her 3 year old son, but he survived. Mr. Payne was arrested after a neighbor reported him and he left the building covered in blood. At the trial, the prosecutor asked the judge to impose the death sentence and the judge did.
  • Why do we punish? - The government punishes criminals to deter the guilty, deter everyone else from committing these heinous crimes, and to impose retribution (two wrongs make a right) in terms of the death penalty.
After class I went to John Jay. I've been trying to eat more healthy so I'll post a picture of what I ate as proof:
Salad with lots of carrots, slabs of bread, and chips...I tried 
NO I did not eat her, I just felt the need to throw in a picture of Talya and I after class (:
The afternoon session was nice. We took our last quiz, which I got an A on. I feel like I've really progressed in this class. We then played constitutional jeopardy, and my team came in second. After class, we had a meeting with Ms. L. Instead of having dinner in John Jay, Aurea, Morvarid, Tomi, Brittany, and I decided to go to a Japanese restaurant a block away from campus for dinner (I gave up on trying to eat healthy). I really like Japanese food because it's very flavorful and the portions are lighter than Chinese food.

Morvarid's Bento Box
Happy selfie of me before getting my food
Vegetable fried rice
Pork pan seared gyoza
After dinner, I rested in the dorms before the Columbia HSP Talent Show! I signed up to be a performer. Tomi accompanied me and I was very happy that she came. I wrote a poem about interracial love and was happy and relieved at the applause I received. I've never been a fan of public speaking but this was a fun exercise. The Talent Show was really fun; there was dancing, singing, a yo-yo performance, poetry, and a wonderful tap-dance performance from my floormate Zoey!

My floormate Emma and I; she did stand-up comedy!
We certainly do
After the talent show, Tomi and I went to Butler Library to accompany Aurea while she worked on her paper. Looking at all the research books about United States presidents made me really miss AP United States History.
Aurea working
Tomorrow we find out our debate topics - we only have one day to prepare! Since I wrote the opening statement last time for my group, I'm going to try to get a lighter subject, hopefully writing and delivering questions. Whatever it is, I'm ready for the challenge, no matter what the outcome will be.

Yards Closer to Touchdown

I am now 3/4 of the way done with my research paper. I'm still not satisfied, however. I was hoping to finish by tonight! I'm still not going to quit tonight, though. Me typing this blog right now is actually my "break" from the research paper, I will continue working as soon as I press the orange "publish" button on the top of my screen.

The only thing that holds me from completion is the fact that I cannot have my sources with me. I have six books on hold in the Butler Library, but I have no ability to check them out. My curfew at 11 PM and the early closing hour of the library itself deprives me from the ability to stay at the library for longer hours and use the books I need to write my paper. If I had the books physically with me, I can confidently say that I would have been done with my paper by now.

This evening was very similar to yesterday's. I worked basically all day, and spent most of my time in the library. Again, I arrived there early for second session and after meeting with Mrs.L and eating lunch, I went straight back to the library. I was there all the way until they turned off all the lights and pratically kicked me out at closing hour. I was very concentrated in my work and I really did not want to leave mid-way and stop my train of thought. Unfortunately, I had no other choice and I had to make it back to my room before curfew.

Tomorrow is the last day I can fully work on my paper, but I'm hoping I can devote that time more to revision rather than development. As for now, I must return to my work because aside from the research paper, I must also read a lengthy article for tomorrow's discussion.


As you can tell from my title, I had probably the best epiphany this whole trip today; okay maybe not the best but certainly the most helpful for my research paper.

So since I was beat this morning to the shower again- it’s a never ending silent battle between my suite mates and me- I decided to get a few words in for my research paper. While I was writing, I typed in the most used word in policy debate, hegemony. Hegemony is the predominant influence one has over another. As you can tell, my fondness for policy debate goes with me everywhere. I didn’t think much of it at first; I just went through my daily routine of a shower and such. The only thing I learned at that moment was that I could write one hundred words in ten minutes; after a few calculations, I assumed I could “finish” my research paper in about five hours and ten minutes. Then I assumed my usual routine of getting dressed and going to breakfast.

Once I had my fill, I headed to a different class in the Schermerhorn building for class today. Today we discussed the presidential empathy and how it can be used as an effective tool. If you’ve read my previous blog, you could probably tell my fondness for the article. One of my favorite quotes from the document was from Obama who stated that, “… We live in culture that discourages empathy. A culture that often tells us our principal goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, safe, and entertained. A culture where those in power too often encourage these selfish impulses.” I completely agree with this excerpt; every well to do human should adopt a Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth.” But that’s just my opinion on the matter. Since our discussion only lasted about an hour, we watched a few presidential campaign ads from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama. And of course at the end, we had to “plan out” ads for this year’s presidential campaign. Unfortunately I had to advocate an anti-Obama ad; it’s quite humorous because every person in my group are Obama supporters. So we thought of a commercial with random people in an elevator waiting for their floor to come but it never arrives. A narrator will then ask them if they’re tired of waiting, the same way Obama has yet to fulfill his promises during his first term. Although I can easily destroy that thought by saying Obama’s agenda will take more than 4 years to complete, hence why he needs a second term.

After an eventful first session, we got lunch and conversed for a while. But as usual, my fatigue kicks out of nowhere and demands I take a nap. So I headed to my dorm for a quick rest before my next class.

My second session was more eventful for me today. So while I was writing my paper, I reread the contents of what I wrote this morning. And after I read the word “hegemony” I felt like such a fool; being a policy debater, I’ve analyzed how different aspects increase and decrease a president’s or nation’s hegemony. So I quickly adjusted my thesis to a policy plan. My paper will now argue that economic policies, international affairs, and social change all affect a nation’s hegemonic status. Thus the status of the nation during a term defines a person’s presidential legacy. During the time attempting to write my paper, I never felt such a huge burden being lifted from my shoulders. Never has such clarity enveloped my mind. Thank the above, now I can do my paper.

Thirty-eight hours lie between me and my deadline. Challenge accepted.