Author: Scott Johnson

New Republican posturing impedes progress

Recently, Speaker of the House John Boehner has made the decision to willingly vacate his post in Congress, a decision that few have made in the history of the position. This decision may come as a surprise to some, but a look at the last few years of Congressional leadership leaves little question as to why.

The far-right’s ideological brittleness continues to fracture the Republican party and impede any true progress at the federal level. Boehner began his tenure as Speaker of the House with the resounding Republican Congressional victory in 2010. Conservative gains at that time can be largely attributed to the Tea Party movement, which gave a valuable vitality to the election cycle. For establishment Republicans though, the cure soon became the disease, as the far-right movement battled the party establishment.

Boehner’s exit is only one more act in the political drama that has unfolded in Republican Party in recent years. The Tea Party movement has created a populist base that pushes out the long-standing members perceived as too liberal or rather not sufficiently anti-Obama. Although the Republicans have had success in Congress halting some of Obama’s legislation, controversial bills have still been enacted such as the Affordable Care Act. With this fail- ure, the ideological base of the conservative movement has made heads roll, exemplified by former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s ousting by Tea Party challenger David Brat in 2014.

The hardliners in the Republican Party are committing a grave mistake with their intra-party purging; they have created an environment in which pure ideology has trumped pragmatism. Rather than actual discourse on bipartisan issues such as health care and immigration reform, the Republican Party has resorted to an anti-Obama platform of obstruction and gridlock. The Republican-dominated Congress has used the threat of government shutdown in an attempt to get Democrats to repeal Obamacare at the behest of such purists.

The ultimate problem with plans like these

is that they stand virtually no chance of success. Not only ineffective, these types of actions have real consequences. It’s not only the Washington oligarchs, policy wonks and Obama that pay in the case of a shutdown, the 2.1 million federal employees suffer as well. Some of these employees include vital services such as the post office, Department of Justice and the military.

It’s hard for Republicans to be pragmatic though, when they are labelled Obama allies for simply negotiating with the White House. Party notables such as Boehner, Orrin Hatch of Utah and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have dealt with uncommonly competitive primaries in their home districts.

These establishment Republicans have done what politicians have done since the beginning of American politics: cross the aisle and work with the other side. It’s hard to be in the Senate as long as Hatch and not made compromises. That’s what most Americans want after all. Despite recent trends, we are actually not living in the most polarized of political cultures in U.S. history, (consider the presidential election of 1800 between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams for a good example). Polarization ebbs and flows over time and a critical point may have been reached. Congressional approval ratings, which remain at extremely low levels, show that citizens are fed up. Maybe change is on the way.

This potential change did not arrive soon enough to save Boehner. The Tea Party faction still wields tremendous power in the Republican party and indeed American poli- tics as a whole.

All of this is not to say that the Democrats have never engaged in political posturing or are completely devoid of blame. But right now, Republicans must end the witch hunt within their own party. Stop punishing the only thing that makes the American political system work: compromise.

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Volleyball loses tightly contested match

On Sept. 26, the St. Olaf volleyball team traveled to St. Paul to take the fight to the Scots of Macalester College, losing 2-3 in a heated five-set match.

St. Olaf was able to muster wins in the first and third sets, with Macalester winning the second set and then consecutively winning the final two sets of the match to secure their victory. The Oles came out swinging with a 25-15 win in the first set, while the second set was a close fight until Macalester pulled through and defeated the Oles 25-21. St. Olaf found victory in the third set with a 25-18 win, coming back from a seven-point deficit over the Scots. Macalester then went on to win the fourth set 25-15 and subsequently won the ensuing tiebreaker set by three points for a final score of 15-12. The loss to Macalester puts St. Olaf at an overall record of 8 wins and 10 losses, and Macalester at 12 wins and 3 losses. Both teams remain below .500 within the MIAC however, with St. Olaf winless (0-3) and Macalester sitting with 1 win and 2 losses.

There were several notable performances during the match; the 1st and 3rd sets, won by the Oles, were led by Megan Grimes ’19, who had a team high 17 kills. Grimes has potential to become one of the Oles’ biggest stars in years considering her strong performances so far this season.

Junior Lexie Read ’17 also had an impressive 0.310 hitting percentage, leading the Oles. The defense was led by Abby Slack ’17 with 24 digs, while junior Sophie Schwart ’17 was credited with four blocks. The Macalester standout was Clara Baumann who achieved an astounding 23 kills in the match. The next game for the Oles will be in Skoglund Center this coming Friday at 7 p.m., when they will square off against Concordia College (Moorhead) in what should be a closely contested matchup between two teams hoping to gain solid footing in a tough MIAC conference.

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Refugee influx weighs heavily on the European Union

The United States is no stranger to immigration problems, but we’ve never dealt with as great an influx of people as the European Union faces today. In the midst of the horrific Syrian Civil War, millions of refugees have sought asylum in Europe.

Nations such as Germany and Sweden have been inundated with asylum applications. Swamped, European countries are entirely justified in partially closing off their borders to further Middle Eastern immigration. While the situation these Syrians face is tragic, there is a limit to what the countries of Europe can do to resettle these people.

According to Yahoo News, Germany alone is expecting at least one million immigrants from a combination of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. To put this in relative terms, that is akin to the U.S. accepting almost four million immigrants from a few select war zones across the world in a single year.

Although Germany feel overwhelmed with asylum seekers, the countries closest in proximity to the Syrian conflict currently have received the largest influx of immigrants. Turkey and Lebanon have received over one million refugees and Jordan has received over 600,000.

While the neighboring countries are desperately in need of relief, some of these states have played a role in exacerbating the issues of the Syrian Civil War. Not only has Turkey refused to aid the anti-ISIS coalition, the state actually began air-strikes on the Peshmerga, the Kurdish rebel force. Lebanon’s militant group and political party, Hezbollah, has bolstered Bashar al-Assad, the resident dictator of Syria.

Regional neighbors may offer a potential solution due to the ethnic and linguistic homogeneity of countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. Refugees may assimilate more easily into these countries than many European ones. Large immigrant populations have encountered cultural backlash in many European Union countries, such as the Turkish community in Germany or Algerians in France.

The well-being of refugees should certainly be of importance in this debate too. Many families would undoubtedly live more secure and comfortable lives in countries of the European Union versus many of the regional neighbors. Europe has a moral obligation to help their fellow humans, but they cannot take in every refugee that requests asylum.

Members of the European Union should strive to equitably distribute the number of refugees they do take in. Many European nations have made attempts to secure borders. Croatia, Hungary and Macedonia have all taken actions to prevent further Syrian immigration.

The Dublin Regulation, an existing European Union law, states that the first country of arrival for stateless people is where they should register for asylum. This law has largely been ignored as countries on the immigration path try to mitigate the number of immigramts. Since many seek the higher standard of living in Germany, they are willing to continue their journey. German enforcement of the Dublin Regulation would create more equitable distribution of the humanitarian responsibility of settling a population fleeing war.

This is an incredibly complex geopolitical situation, but one thing is certain: The refugees need safe, stable homes. Almost all European Union member countries can provide for basic needs of asylum seekers; however, Germany cannot take all refugees. The immigration crisis requires a concerted response rather than dodging the problem.

Scott Johnson ‘18 ( from Gladstone, Mo. He majors in economics.

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St. Olaf Kink Club: Normal and beneficial

The St. Olaf Kink club, a group dedicated to raising awareness on alternative sexual preferences, held a demonstration last week that pushed some observers out of their comfort zone. Not many details are available about this club, as they are not listed online and don’t possess an email address in the common St. Olaf database. Although perhaps bizarre to some, the demonstration held in Fireside, which focused on how to tie knots for acts of bondage during romantic interaction, should not be criticized. It was harmless and, ultimately, may in fact be beneficial.

Kinky sexual tendencies are like any other facet of sexuality and gender in American culture: they’re made to be seen as taboo and sometimes downright obscene. This mentality is in no small part due to the relative social conservatism of the United States and the strong religious presence in American culture. Spending too much time on a college campus perhaps can make it seem that the general population is more progressive than they actually are.

Even with this bias, the trend in national culture surrounding issues typically seen as private seems to be shifting. Issues surrounding sexuality and gender identity, formerly taboo, are gaining both societal and governmental acceptance. These issues have started to become much more socially palatable. With this principle of social acceptance of the personal choices of sexuality on the rise, almost all alternative sexual preferences should fall under this umbrella, granted that they are safe.

In fact, alternative sexual preferences aren’t all that uncommon. According to a survey conducted by the Journal of Sexual Medicine, many things found to be “kinky” are desired or are at least found appealing by about 50 percent of men and women in the general population. There is some concern amongst a number of groups that certain kinky practices can be harmful. One particular group is the Liberation Collective, which believes that BDSM Bondage Discipline Sadism Masochism can lead to the legitimization of the abuse of passive partners. This abuse is most often directed at women. Similar arguments have been made with video games, movies, music and any sort of fiction or media consumption. However, there has been no widespread consensus that fantasizing or role-playing of any sort corresponds with such acts outside of the simulation.

In fact, there are studies to support a correlation between above-average psychological health and practice of BDSM. One such study was also published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine. In this study, answers to questionnaire results of those with mainstream sexual preferences were compared to those of their kinkier counterparts. The study’s findings indicated better overall psychological health in the kinkier group. The conductor of the survey, Professor Andreas Wismeijer, from Nyerode University, suggests the reason for this is that people who are into “kinky” sex are more cognizant and contemplative of their own habits because they exist out of the mainstream.

Intuitively, it seems if these sexual preferences are benign, they should not be ignored or suppressed. The St. Olaf Kink club helps bring awareness to a harmless and wide-spread activity. Although the demonstration may make the more modest blush, it is a symbol of progress in society, whether one prefers to be tied up or not.

Scott Johnson ’18 is from Gladstone, Mo. He majors in economics.


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Mens and womens tennis teams fall short

Last week, the men’s and women’s tennis teams competed in the MIAC Conference Semifinals. The women’s team squared off in St. Peter, Minn. against Gustavus Adolphus College while the men’s team competed across the river against the Oles’ traditional rival, Carleton College.

The men’s team fought its way through some close matches but eventually came up short, concluding its season with a 6-3 loss to Carleton. Oles Christian Beck ’18 and Ben Carlson ’16 won in their singles competitions while Keenan Gladd-Brown ’16 and Matthew Christensen ’15 prevailed in their doubles match. Carleton players Kevin Mei, Andrew Hwang and Ezra Frankel swept both singles and doubles matches. Carleton will advance to MIAC Conference Finals, which will take place on Saturday at Gustavus Adolphus. The men’s team finished with a final record of 8-5, with one of these losses being against Carleton. Highlights of the men’s season include a closely contested win over regional rivals University of St. Thomas and Macalester College.

The St. Olaf women’s team took their competition to St. Peter to face Gustavus Adolphus College on May 1. The team lost 5-1 to the Gusties in a pivotal matchup of the MIAC Conference Semifinal. The only Ole victory of the afternoon was from senior Erin Hynes ’15 against Gustavus’ Katie Aney, winning both matches 6-3 and 6-2 respectively. Gustavus will be advancing to play the University of St. Thomas in the MIAC Conference Finals. The St. Olaf women’s team has had a largely successful season with a final record of 12-6. Some of the women’s wins from this season include stunning 9-0 victories over Hamline University and Concordia College.

Both teams look to have successful seasons in the fall since many players will be returning, though the men’s team will miss Christensen ’15, Nico Gibb ’15 and Stephen Nolen ’15. Nolen was recently selected for his seventh all-conference award. The women will have to do without Hynes ’15, Andrea Jumes ’15 and Kristi Kroker ’15. Despite these losses, Oles clearly have the skill and athleticism to compete head-to-head with other teams in the MIAC, but experience will be key if St. Olaf hopes to win the conference in upcoming seasons.

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