A Counterpoint alum, Alex Alduncin joins us on the show as we debate news worthy events from the week of 01/13. Features special audio from WVUM News’ Hyan Freitas and Republican correspondent Nicole Marcos interview with Olympia Snowe.
Posts Tagged ‘Counterpoint’
Last Friday’s show included audio from the Chartwells walk-out protest and Counterpoint’s Jordan Lewis, Mike Kanoff, and William Ng were able to witness. They heard the strikers grievances not just about their own jobs but the greater impact of UM in their community. Most notably, Miss Betty, a favorite at UM after Chartwells dismissed her over a simple misunderstanding was present as well as other community leaders. Miss Betty stressed how the Chartwells workers provide students with delicious meals but many employees cannot even feed their own families. This comment particularly struck me because I realize being able to attend a university is apart of the American dream but the reality is that many cannot afford this opportunity. Betty was grateful that one of her sons was able to attend UM but most people on minimum wage don’t have the means to do so. Our privilege at this university juxtaposed with the unfair wages that the worker whether from Chartwells or UNICO is a reflection of the deep income disparities our country.
So is this just a Chartwells problem or is it a UM problem? It’s both. We do business with Chartwells and expect them to have not just fair business practices but also fair treatment of their workers. UM should pressure Chartwells to do the right thing and increase wages, include healthcare, and cut long hours. Why? It is because UM has a reputation to uphold as well as a high price tag. That in turn, should buy students not just meals but provide decent wages for the workers.
Another one of commentators, Michael Fuentes, made the argument against increasing wages because minimum wage jobs are not meant to be permanent, and that people need to “move up the ladder” in terms of economic status. Some minimum wage workers might have that opportunity, while others do not have a choice. There is little room for economic mobility due to the deregulated financial markets that led up to the economic crisis in 2008. The debate should not be over minimum wages but rather over if a person s being paid fairly for the quality and quantity of work they’re doing. Betty urged UM students and faculty to speak out against the unfair treatment of Chartwells workers. We, the students, are the ones paying for this university, so let’s make a difference not just in UM but also in the community by supporting the Chartwells workers and their push to get a higher pay.
<<Featured Image Credit: Michael Thad Carter for Forbes
Briefly during past editions of Counterpoint, we’ve brought up the topic of 3D-printing. I figured that since this week’s show will likely be all about the Supreme Court cases, I’d take up a less well-known topic.
3D-printing: it’s like regular printing– same idea, different material– but the extra dimension opens up so many possibilities. Where 2D-printers use ink jets or lasers to produce an image on a sheet of paper, 3D-printers use plastic (usually ABS, the stuff LEGOs are made of) to produce objects in 3-dimensional space. I’ll leave the tech component there; more information can be found by starting here. So how does this technology have a political impact? I find most of the political conversation boils down to a question along the lines of “who should be able to print what?” and then is usually divided between the copyright/patent sphere and the firearms-related sphere, recently catapulted into the spotlight by the Liberator pistol.
There was a time when copyright was good… a couple hundred years ago. Today, it’s all about DRM (Digital Rights Management) and preventing “piracy.” If you’ve ever changed cell phone brands and wanted to take your music with you from one to the other, you’ve likely encountered DRM; the thing stopping you from playing your imported music on your new device. And the best part, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t even work: the “piracy” it’s supposed to stop has yet to be stopped from circumventing any and all forms of DRM, and it all winds up being just a pain to the average, non-pirate consumer.
I could go on about how DRM is the demon-spawn of consumer unfriendly business strategy and asinine understanding of technology, but for the sake of time, I’ll assume my point has been made by now. The reason I’m bringing this up is that there have recently been murmurs of trying to create a platform/standard/expectation for soon-to-be commercially available 3D-printers to have built-in DRM. This would mean that when someone would buy a 3D-printer, they would be restricted from printing objects on a “blacklist” of sorts; likely copyrighted/patented objects or soon-to-be copyrighted/patented objects, but possibly other things, and possibly for completely non-legal reasons, like maybe the parts for building a new 3D-printer.
This is dangerous: if we censor one object, why not another? And for that matter, who gets to decide what everyone else can and cannot print? Those EULAs (End-User License Agreements) everyone blindly accepts could easily hide a clause barring a user from doing something economically hindering to the manufacturer, like using the purchased 3D-printer to print most of the parts for another 3D-printer for a friend (see RepRap). We’re talking about a complete overhaul of the entire manufacturing process; you think the toy makers, the Frisbee-makers, the anything-plastic makers are going to take this lying down? When the automobile was just getting off the ground, the Red Flag Traffic Laws were lobbied for by the stagecoach and railroad industries, which, as you will humorously discover by reading the article, severely crippled the automobile’s usefulness in favor of the incumbent industries. I have no doubt that a similar effort will be made against 3D-printing in the near future.
But staving off the impending “printing war” for a while, I’ll get to a possible weapon for such a war, the Liberator pistol. This is a pistol, created entirely from a 3D-printer, with the sole exceptions being a nail for the firing pin, and a chunk of metal to make the pistol identifiable to metal detectors. Yes it can actually fire a bullet; one at a time, with a reload required after every shot. The files for making the pistol were made unavailable after the Department of Defense Trade Controls (no, that’s not a made-up department) claimed control over the information and made Defense Distributed, the organization which created and made the files available to the public, remove them.
If you’ve been a long-time listener for Counterpoint, you might have picked up that I’m consistently neither pro- nor anti-guns, but I’m for this little plastic pistol. Yes it can fire a bullet, but only one at a time; it’s clear that this is a proof-of-concept rather than a mass-murder assisting device. Besides that, using it for malicious purposes has obvious dissuasion: It’s not very accurate, not nearly as sturdy as a metal counterpart would be, and again, can only fire one shot at a time. But it’s barely-veritable lethality is not why I support it; I support it because this is a showcase for what 3D-printing technology can do.
That… and the fact that trying to go against it is pointless. Within the first two days of its release, the files for the Liberator were downloaded 100,000 times, and at the time of writing, there are 15 separate torrents on The Pirate Bay believed to be containing the same files. The former means that many people already have it, and the latter means that even though the DDTC wants the files to disappear from the face of the Internet, the torrent to get them is available from “the galaxy’s most resilient bittorrent [sic] site.” The information is out there, and it’s not going anywhere, so it seems to me like going against it is pointless. As stated above, I really doubt this will be used maliciously, or even properly at all. It’s the bare minimum required to pass proof-of-concept, made for the sake of making it.
Oh, and if printing this thing sounds like a good idea, I wouldn’t: the DDTC is still working through this literally first-of-its-kind situation, so the legality may be in question, even with the metal block in the gun. Also, the pistol was printed on a high-end printer, not a regular consumer-grade one, so if something goes wrong printing it out and you fire it, you could lose your hand. Stay safe.
On June 17th, the Supreme Court decided to pass a “landmark decision” in regards to Salinas v. Texas which impacts how one can go about claiming the right to not incriminate oneself (otherwise known as “pleading the fifth”). The decision essentially stated that when an individual is not placed under arrest, the individual must explicitly evoke their 5th amendment right and that simply remaining silent does not mean their right has been evoked. Depending upon the circumstances, this silence can be used to infer possible guilt of the party in question.
To really understand the context of this ruling, let me first start with a quick background to this decision.
This all started with a murder case conducted in a Texas state court. In 1992, Houston police officers found two homicide victims. The investigation had then led officers to Genovevo Salinas. Salinas voluntarily agreed to accompany the officers to the police station, where he was then questioned. At this time, Salinas was not under arrest and had not been read his Miranda rights. Salinas had the ability to leave at any point while he was being questioned.
Salinas answered every question until an officer asked him whether the shotgun shells found at the scene of the crime would match the shotgun found in Salinas’ home. At this point, the defendant fell silent and “looked down at the floor, shuffled his feet, bit his bottom lip, clenched his hands in his lap, and began to tighten up” (according to the statements made by the state prosecutor).
A ballistics analysis later matched Salinas’ gun with the casings at the scene. Police also found a witness who said Salinas admitted to killing the victims. In 1993, Salinas was charged with the murders, but he could not be found until 15 years later.
During the trial, the prosecution introduced the evidence of Salinas’ silence and body language in response to the question about the gun casings. Salinas objected, arguing that he could invoke his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination. The trial court admitted the evidence and Salinas was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The question boiled down to whether or not Salinas’ body language is allowed to be presented as evidence.
I say YES!
First of all, Salinas had the ability to leave the questioning period any time he liked.
All of his answers from this questioning period were applicable to be used in court as evidence. Since he did not leave nor claim his right to not self incriminate, I believe that the answer his body language gave is also admissible in court.
There’s been plenty of dissenting chatter in the public sphere about Supreme Court’s decision to allow this piece of evidence stand. Personally, I think it’s time for these chatters of dissent to stop. Ladies and gentlemen please plead the fifth!
Now we are all very familiar with our fifth amendment rights. Just to recap a bit, the pertaining part of the 5th amendment in this case is “No person shall be…compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”. There are other things the amendment guarantees such as our right in regards to double jeopardy, due process, and eminent domain. The important thing here to focus on is the ability to not self incriminate.
Some people will argue that to not self incriminate is a natural right.
I think they are only partially right.
If one really focused on the language of the Constitution, the key word is compelled. We are allowed the right to not be forced into incriminating ourselves but that does not stop you from doing it freely.
The Miranda rights are read to you because you are in custody, and you can’t just get up and leave. If you had incriminated yourself without explicitly knowing your rights under these conditions, the law enforcement officers are essentially forcing incriminating evidence out of you.
Under a different circumstance where you basically waltz into a police department and partake in a questioning period willingly then… anything you say or may do are going to be used against you! (sound familiar?)
There has been all types of people have used their 5th amendment rights in the past, and some of them have gotten off clean while others haven’t. People such as Don King, Colone Oliver North, Casey Anthony, and even O.J. Simpson have all claimed their right to not incriminate themselves when they were questioned, as well as they should have (and O.J. I’m talking about you especially).
Look, we have all watched enough Law and Order and CSI to know that when you are being questioned, and you get asked that one question where you might start to incriminate yourself…
What do you do?
You shut up and ask for a lawyer.
Salinas paid for his slip up during the questioning period, and he couldn’t answer because he got nervous. The police had hit the nail on the head. If he was really trying to evoke his 5th amendment right, we would definitely all be made aware of it (it’s really not that hard). He got nervous and couldn’t answer because the bullet casings did fit his shotgun. He got nervous and couldn’t answer because he did murder two innocent people in their own home. He got nervous and couldn’t answer probably because he started planning for his 15 years of hide-and-seek with law enforcement.
The take away from this Supreme Court decision?
You have the right to not self-incriminate.
Our debate on the relevance of affirmative action was easily one of the most heated ones we’ve ever had on the show (a clip is below). Race is always a tricky topic to talk about when many of the issues surrounding it remain unsolved in our country. But debates such as the one we had was one that needed to happen. People seldom confront the issue of race head-on in the media and we at Counterpoint were happy to be able to delve into such a subject.
With that said, I think its important for us (especially as Americans) to not think that because we are starting to see more black people in positions of power that we live in a “post-racial America”. Racism, particularly towards blacks remains an open wound that has not healed even after years of progress. Those who are not minorities may think, “How unfair, why is it necessary to still have these policies when we are not in the 60s?” It is easy to not understand the importance of such policies when you are not a black, Latino, or Asian in America.
Affirmative action opens doors for minorities and with that, it puts people of different backgrounds in settings such as a school or workplace. And in that setting we are confronted with race, we come face-to-face with the ugly history and reality of America. Once confronted with these themes, we can either continue with ignorance or learn to embrace differences with an open mind. Affirmative action is not some gateway for minorities to get whatever job they want or get into a good school without putting forth effort. Actually minorities have to work harder than anyone else to prove stereotypes wrong and break barriers.
As I stated in the show, you cannot get into Harvard or some other Ivy League school with a bad GPA or test score, regardless of race. And as we all know from our experience of applying to various universities they look at more than just your test score. There’s essays, extracurricular activities, teacher recommendations, etc that also add to your application. So to say that the student at University of Texas was rejected solely on the premise that she’s white, is completely baseless. I can only hope that the Supreme Court will also understand the value of diversity in schools/workplace made possible by affirmative action.
We should not undervalue or underestimate the importance of diversity. It’s one the reasons I chose UM, even though it still remains a majority white school. But UM still tries to value the diversity of its students by enrolling people of not just different races but also nationalities. Affirmative action is still a work in progress as many universities remain overwhelmingly white but the positives of these policies can be seen in not just our elected officials like the president but in business, entertainment, and sports.
I’m proud to be a voice for blacks and women on Counterpoint and I hope that our show continues to challenge and inspire not just our contributors but our listeners as well.
Below is a clip of our discussion on the subject during our live show. Counterpoint airs live Fridays at 1pm ET.