• Contraception: The Hot Button Topic of 2012

    Contraception has found itself to be the hottest political topic of 2012 thus far. With GOP candidates, Rush Limbaugh, and states fighting over it, condoms and birth control have seemingly never been more popular. Seven states filed a lawsuit recently to block the federal government's requirement that religious organizations offer health insurance coverage that includes free access to contraception for women.

    Discussion questions:

    • Who do you believe should decide whether religious organizations should offer health insurance coverage that includes free access to contraception?
    • Why do you think there is so much debate about contraception today?
  • Rush Limbaugh--Open Mouth, Insert Foot

    Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh drew sharp criticism from Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and others this week when he called Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student, a "***" and a "prostitute" for publicly advocating that employers cover contraception in their health plans. As one would expect, women across the country have now declared Rush to be their number one target. Sponsors have began pulling their products from his show.

    Discussion questions:

    • What was the argument being made by Rush Limbaugh?
    • Do you believe Rush can survive this scandal? Why or why not?
  • The Tax Debate Continues

    President Obama this week proposed cutting the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, but he said the elimination of many popular loopholes that companies enjoy would actually increase the amount paid to the federal government. Obama called the current U.S. tax code “outdated, unfair, and inefficient” as it famously allows many large companies to use loopholes to pay far less despite that its stated 35 percent sounds higher than many other countries. Mitt Romney countered with his own plan to cut taxes down 20 percent for individuals, and capping the individual income tax rate at 28 percent. Knowing taxes will be a key campaign issue (along with government spending), it seems these two have started formally jockeying for position on this overly salient issue.

     

     

    Discussion Questions:

    • What impact do you think the Obama corporate tax cut would ultimately have?
    • How does the Romney plan differ from Obama's?
  • Super PACs are Here

    More money, more problems? The Mitt Romney super PAC Restore Our Future spent $14 million on ads in a three-state blitz in January, according to campaign reports. Most of the money was for attack ads on other opponents. Though Romney had a shaky January—losing South Carolina to Newt Gingrich—the super PAC has raised $7 million in the first month of the year, bringing its funds to more than $16 million at the start of February. Since the controversial Citizens United ruling, super PACs have made campaign fundraising significantly easier as candidates can now solicit large donations from supporters for the super PAC as opposed to traditional fundraising. Consider the number of these new organizations currently in operation. Even Stephen Colbert is on these new organizations.

     

     

    Discussion Questions:

    • Are Super PACs good for democracy? Why or why not?
    • How do you believe Super PACs will ultimately impact the GOP nomination and presidential races in our country?
  • ESPN's Poor Choice of Words

    It seems as if it were bound to happen. ESPN is investigating an offensive headline reference to New York Knicks star Jeremy Lin that was posted on its mobile site. The worldwide leader in sports coverage apologized for running a story under the headline “*** in the Armor” after the player failed to lead the Knicks to yet another win. As the Twittersphere went wild flagging the insensitive comment, ESPN apologized for the “mistake.” But that wasn't the only oops moment: it turns out a commentator made the same error on television.

     

     

    Discussion Questions:

    • Was the headline racist? Why or why not?
    • Should the individual who wrote the headline be fired? Why or why not?
  • Monitoring Muslim Students

    In a search for potential terrorists, the New York Police Department monitored Muslim students at colleges and universities spanning the East Coast. Many of these students (if not most) resided far outside of the city's boundaries. Between 2006 and 2007, detectives apparently pored over school websites every day and wrote down students' names in reports prepared for NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly, despite the fact that they had never committed any criminal offenses. Attempting to justify the intense monitoring, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne provided a list of 12 former members of Muslim student associations (MSAs) who had been arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the U.S. and abroad. As expected, many Muslims are unhappy with the news.

    Discussion Questions:

    • Do you agree with the NYPD's decision? Why or why not?
    • How could Muslim students most effectively voice their concerns with this policy? Do you think they would be successful?
  • Grecian Riots

    Greek lawmakers passed an unpopular bailout deal earlier this week, as protesters took to the streets in outrage, attacking police with fire bombs and stones. Even coffee shops was set on fire. There have been more than 50 arrests, 150 shops looted, and 34 buildings set on fire, and 100 riot police have been injured. After much pleading from Prime Minister Lucas Papademos, the plan, with its deep austerity measures, looks as though it will help the country avoid default in March. So why all the violence in response?

    Discussion Questions:

    • What is the cause of the riots at Greece presently?
    • Do you believe the state is responding too harshly? Why or why not?
  • The Komen Controversy

    Karen Handel, an executive at the Susan G. Komen Foundation, resigned recently. A former Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, she had been suspected as the root of the breast-cancer charity’s controversial decision last week to pull funding from Planned Parenthood. In her resignation letter, Handel said she “fully acknowledged” her role in the decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, saying that the decision had been part of a “thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision” and that cutting the funding to Planned Parenthood would “have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact.”



    Discussion Questions:

    • What was the main point of controversy in this story?
    • Do you believe Handel should have resigned? Why or why not?
  • Prop 8 Ruled Unconstitutional

    A federal appeals court recently ruled that California’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, setting up a showdown in the Supreme Court. The state instituted the ban after voters narrowly passed Proposition 8 in 2008. But Tuesday’s panel affirmed by a 2–1 vote that a lower-court judge was correct when he said the referendum violated the U.S. Constitution.

    Discussion Questions:

    • What arguments were raised to have the proposition declared unconstitutional?
    • What means of recourse are there for advocates of the ban?
    • What do you think the Supreme Court will rule? Why?
  • Graphical Representation of the GOP Nomination

    While the GOP nomination process has continue to captivate Americans, there are new graphical representations that help to shed light on what has happened since the campaign kicked into full swing last April.

    The first graphs demonstrate how much of an advantage Romney truly has financially.





    This graphic demonstrates the daily fundraising advantages for Romney over Santorum.



    Here we can see Bachmann's daily fundraising and begin to understand why her time in the race was so short.



    Like Bachmann, Rick Perry suffered from problems within his campaign (mainly noticeable debate gaffes).



    Discussion Questions:

    • Which of these graphs is most informative to you? Why?
    • Which of these graphs is most surprising to you? Why?
  • Are You in the 99%?

    With the Occupy movement continuing to be active participants across the country, we have started to wonder exactly what it takes to be in the 1%. With a colossal gap between the very rich and everyone else, income disparity has become a rallying point in this election season. As President Obama positions himself as a defender of the middle class, and Mitt Romney, the wealthiest of the Republican presidential candidates, decries such talk as “the bitter politics of envy,” some Americans have found themselves on the wrong end of a new paradigm.Go to this site and figure out where you fall in terms of income in the United States.




    Discussion Questions:

    • Where does your income place you according to the tool? How does this make you feel? Why?
    • What problems arise as a result of the great income disparity in our country? How can it be fixed?
  • Romeny's Taxes

    Since Mitt Romney released his 2010 tax returns this week, much has been made out of the relatively low rate he has paid despite his high income. After having other candidates declare that citizens needed to be able to vet his finances before making a decision on who to vote for, Romney finally agreed and turned over his documents.




    Discussion Questions:

    • Should Romney have had to release his tax returns? Why or why not?
    • What does the comparative graph tell us about Romney's taxes? Do you think it will hurt him with voters?