Category Archives: viewpoint

Tyler triumphs on new album

A lot of people hate Tyler, the Creator. The soccer moms, suburban churchgoers, and sensitive hipsters hate his attitude and his satirical sarcasm. They hate his vulgar language, his violent imagery, and the sound of his voice. They hate him the same way they hated Eminem in the early 2000s, and they will not tolerate him. One can’t help but think of the Sex Pistols.
However, even Tyler’s critics have to admit that he’s unique. His new album, Wolf, is further proof of his authenticity. I can’t remember the last time I heard a rapper with as much conviction. His deep, rolling voice always has something to say, whether he’s complaining about his hype, lashing out at his absent father, or narrating the thoughts of a serial killer. Tyler’s entire musical attitude is soaked in artistic creativity, a dark and interesting atmosphere, and often in raw intimacy. When he’s not wasting time with shock lyrics or fan-rallying catch phrases, Tyler is one of the most personally honest and intriguing voices in modern hip hop. His debut album, Bastard, was an emotional rollercoaster. Wolf represents a return to form after his somewhat inauthentic sophomore effort, Goblin.
On Wolf Tyler rehashes the accessible hooks so many people liked on Goblin, but also reincorporates the emotional intensity so many people missed from Bastard. Songs like “Jamba” and “Domo23” burst with fiery production and provocative rhymes catchy enough to bring in a wider audience. Tracks like “Cowboy,” and “Awkward” focus on avant-garde lyricism, dark beats, and conceptual character development. “Answer” is not only the most emotionally charged song on the album, but it is also one of the most powerful songs in hip-hop so far this year, fusing Tyler’s real life with his story characters and giving him an outlet to vent about paternal abandonment. Every verse drips with an impeccable honesty and emotional power, backed by a beautifully subtle drum beat and synth line.
Unfortunately, the whole album isn’t gold. Tyler shows he has yet to grow out of his somewhat stale, horror-core shock-tactics. However ironic he intends the homophobia and sexism in his lyrics to be, sometimes his characters come off sounding unimpressively plastic. There aren’t any particularly bad songs on Wolf, but many of them don’t sound too fantastic either.
Tyler’s new record has its blunders just as he has his, but overall, Wolf is a rich, artistic concept album, and represents an artist growing in maturity and nearing a possible magnum opus. Even with his faults, Tyler remains one of the most interesting MCs in modern hip-hop, and one of the most daring, as well.

~Patrick Duggan, news director

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OPINION: Don’t copyright our crops

While the news media has focused its attention on the recent events in Boston and North Korea, Congress has been busy passing new legislation with some content.
The Farmer Assurance Provision, passed on April 4 as a rider to a budget bill, severely limits the ability of federal courts to restrict the planting and sale of genetically modified or engineered seeds, despite any possible consumer health concerns. The rider clearly benefits the biotech industry, likely spearheaded by the Monsanto Company, the nation’s leading producer of genetically modified crop seeds.
The Monsanto Company has a long legal track record of class-action lawsuits over health issues caused by their chemical products, as well as Monsanto’s defense of their many patents. Since the mid-90s, Monsanto has filed lawsuits against more than 100 individual farmers for alleged patent infringement. Although most of these suits settled out of court, Monsanto won the few that didn’t.
Monsanto’s rabid defense of its patents worries many people, myself included, and has even earned the corporation the nickname “biopirates.” This new bill will help Monsanto dominate the genetically modified food industry by making the federal government nearly powerless to stop the sale of Monsanto’s products for any reason; it may even help the corporation create a monopoly on food. With no threat of government investigation and the new legal protection given to their products, Monsanto can now continue to aggressively pursue farmers and rivals for patent infringements. Due to the natural spread of crop seeds, Monsanto will eventually be able to claim rights to thousands of fields and will put thousands of farmers in court. Farmers may be pressured to switch to exclusively using Monsanto seeds in order to avoid litigation, substantially increasing Monsanto’s profits and allowing it to dominate the food markets.
In addition to the damage Monsanto’s chemicals can do to humans, genetically modified seeds represent a huge threat to the environment. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, genetically modified crops pose distinct threats to the environment, many of which may be unforeseen. Engineered crops can actually become weeds, which can damage surrounding crops, and modified genes may cross-pollinate other crops, turning them into weeds also. Crops engineered to produce certain viruses could spread the viruses or making them more potent, and plants engineered to produce toxins, such as pesticides, could harm crucial bee populations or wildlife that may eat the crops. Finally, these genetically modified crops could have a negative impact on crop diversity. Although there are multiple environmental issues stemming from the continued growth of these genetically modified crops, no major human health issues have been identified that are directly related to the consumption of genetically modified foodstuffs.
Congress must understand that their continued submission to big business will not be tolerated. This practice of industrial, pre-Progressive era profiting should have died with the monopolies of the early 20th century. Not only is this legislation in direct conflict with antitrust laws, it also allows the controversial practice of producing genetically modified crops to go on virtually unmonitored. Until the questions surrounding the threats that genetically modified foods pose to human health and the environment are answered, the federal government, namely the FDA and the Department of Agriculture, should keep a close eye on the products of companies like Monsanto, not cater to their every whim.

~Kerian McDonald, staff reporter

OPINION: Morning-after treatment a right, not a privilege

A New York judge recently ordered the FDA to make the Plan B contraceptive pill available over the counter. In 30 days, the pill will be available to girls of all ages without a prescription or parental consent, and women will rightly have control of their own bodies. However, some groups that oppose sexual activity among adolescent girls are outraged, as if making the morning-after pill available would result in girls of all ages engaging in sex.
As of now, to get the morning-after pill, a girl has to be at least 17 years of age or have the consent of a parent. This assumes a girl has a supportive family life, because without one, the consequences might be an unplanned pregnancy, which could make the family situation even worse. According to the New York City Health Department, over 7,000 girls under the age of 17 become pregnant in the city each year; 90 percent of those pregnancies are unplanned.
The morning-after pill is not a form of abortion. It does not terminate a pregnancy; it prevents a pregnancy from occurring. Plan B contains a synthetic hormone, which is also used in birth control, that delays ovulation or interferes with fertilization of an egg. However, this does not mean it should be used excessively. The pill should only be used in extreme cases, such as rape and incest, or if a girl makes a mistake, like people, young and old, sometimes do.
One concern raised by groups opposed to wider availability is that young people will use the pill as a form of birth control. This is unlikely, since the morning-after pill costs $40 to $50 a pill. I don’t know many young people with that kind of a disposable income.
If money were not an issue, obviously taking the pill excessively could have dangerous effects on one’s body, such as increasing the risk of blood clots. In addition, wider availability may increase the spread of sexually transmitted diseases if young people stop practicing safe sex.
This is where education comes in. Sex education should teach young people the importance of safe sex to prevent sexually transmitted disease, as well as the option of using the morning-after pill to prevent unplanned pregnancies. After all, the purpose of sex education is to inform young people on the possible consequences of sexual activity and, based on one’s decision, how to go about it safely.
Not allowing girls access to the morning-after pill encroaches on the rights of women to control our own bodies. As much as adults would like to protect young people from everything they feel is unsafe and wrong, they can’t. Ultimately, the decision is not in their hands. With or without the availability of the morning-after pill, young people must make their own decisions regarding their sexual activity. So educate, but don’t make a girl and a child suffer for a mistake.

~SaraRose Martin, staff reporter

Love Taylor; Don’t be a hater

As soon as a musician like Taylor Swift rises to the top, a stream of constant criticism will likely follow:
“She sounds like a dying raccoon.”
“She’s not even pretty. She has rat eyes.”
“This music is for 10-year-old girls!”
I have heard these comments attacks on her abilities, her beauty, and her music for the seven years that Swift has been on top of the charts, and it’s time to set the record straight.

She is gorgeous
Blonde hair, blue eyes, long legs, beautiful smile. Taylor Swift is quite simply the all-American idea of flawless. She is one of the few in Hollywood who isn’t notorious for fashion blunders. Taylor has changed her style as she discovers who she is, just like any young adult. Watching her transition from awkwardly cute country girl to glamorous CoverGirl model has been exhilarating.
She writes songs we all (secretly) relate to
Everyone has heard a Taylor Swift song. Everyone has also related to a Taylor Swift song. The attacks on Taylor often involve the maturity level in through her songs. I didn’t get the memo that once you turn 23, you stop having feelings, experiencing heartbreak, and obsessing over relationships. Her songs are the conversations that girls have with their friends put to music, and they touch on everything, from spending forever with your best friend, to rants about exes who didn’t treat her right. No matter what you’re going through with a guy, you can find a Taylor Swift song to put on repeat until the situation is resolved.
She’s self-made
Taylor Swift pursued a passion that turned into a success story. After singing in talent shows and bars, 14-year-old Swift moved to Nashville with her family to pursue a music career. With persistence, Swift released her first album at age 16, raw look into her teenage mind. Swift is known for writing her own lyrics. She maintains a clean, authentic image that makes it easy for fans to relate to and love her.
She is a good role model
From Vanessa Hudgens’ racy role in Spring Breakers to Miley Cyrus’s destruction of her clean country image, young female celebrities have an iffy track record. Swift, however, has managed to keep a squeaky clean reputation; a serious Swift scandal has yet to hit the newsstands. Swift’s songs also teach important lessons to young girls, since her songs don’t revolve around partying, drinking, or promiscuity (looking at you, Ke$ha). Through her music, Swift sends the message that heartbreak is human and just because he dumped you, it doesn’t mean you will die with cats, which is an important lesson for adolescent girls.
She has matured and will continue to grow
I cannot deny that Swift’s earliest songs sound like a whiny teenage girl’s Tumblr read aloud. Her first eponymous album goes through a relationship, from fond memories of sneaking out and talking all night, to how much Taylor actually hated her ex’s pickup truck. Rhymes were hastily crafted, and lines were paraphrased cliches, which is perfectly fine for a 16-year-old’s debut album. Swift’s artistic maturation is documented through her albums. In her 2012 release, Red, Swift compares a broken relationship to “driving a new Maserati down a dead end street, faster than the wind.” As her music career advances, Swift continues to develop into the fantastic woman she is bound to be.

~Abby Seitz, online/associate editor

PRO/CON: Bears – Cute and cuddly or Godless killing machines?

PRO by Maddie Lemelin, features/arts director

Let’s take a moment and appreciate bears. They are the soft toilet paper of the world – necessary and comfortable, yet often overlooked. But the truth is, bears are a necessary part of the food chain, environment, and entertainment industry.
Picture this: salmon everywhere, flopping all over schools and homes, swimming in pools and bathtubs and tearing apart the universe one fin at a time. If only there was a furry beast that depended on fish to survive that could save us from this dystopia. Oh, wait. There is – the bear. If it weren’t for this magnificent creature, the fish surplus could clog streams used for drinking water and dominate the habitats of other underwater life.
Since ancient times, bears have been a symbol of power and strength. But with the release of the teddy bear in the 1900s, their image transitioned to one cuddly and cute. They dominate the film and television industry. Let’s not forget the Pixar classic, Brave, which won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Animated Picture; bears showed us the meaning of true family. Not good enough, you say? More convincing is what you require? Then take a gander back to 1967 when Walt Disney’s The Jungle Book taught us the importance of the ‘bare necessities’ with the help of the goofy and charismatic Baloo. And don’t forget the honey-loving, cuddly, chubby, stuffed-with-fluff Winnie the Pooh.
Can you imagine a world without Winnie the Pooh? I can, and I want no part of it. If it’s still difficult for you to imagine bears in a tender light, think back to Disney’s Brother Bear, which put us in the bear’s paws after a curse forces the protagonist into a grizzly’s body. Although he hated the species that killed his brother, Kenai’s journey showed him that humans and bears are all just creatures trying to survive.
Some may portray these magical, misunderstood creatures as violent, scary or maybe even terrifying. Yes, there is the occasional mauling accident, but would you stand idly by while someone was hiking in your home? Didn’t think so. Bears attack humans because humans are in their territory, or threatening their cubs. The real issue, however, is the way humans treat bears. Six out of the eight bear species in the world are endangered because poachers kill them and sell their body parts and fur for a profit.
There are ways for humans to peacefully coexist with bears, despite being two of the most aggressive predators on the planet. Humans living in a bear populated area should be aware of bear behavior and ecology in order to cohabitate safely. In addition, an effort should be made to remove lures such as bird feeders, livestock carcasses, or fruit trees.
In a time when our world is technology-heavy, taking time to understand bears is taking time to understand nature.

CON by Abby Seitz, online/associate director

America has been completely blinded by the internet and the media once again. Many times when I have logged onto Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr with high hopes of finding entertaining material, I have found my peers consumed with bear mania. Whether it’s a video of a polar bear cub sliding around on ice or a large bear sitting at a picnic table, it’s about as repulsive as that freshman couple that posts pictures of their make-out sessions. The adoration surrounding bears needs to stop.
As a child, I loved bears. I had hats, stuffed animals, and even a collection of panda postcards. Upon my first visit to the zoo, I was thrilled at the prospect of visiting all of the different bears. When I reached the panda exhibit, the bears were eating and hiding from the public. I moved onto the sloth bear exhibit to find a furry failure at life, asleep and apathetic. I decided to give the Andean bear a shot, only to find another bear playing dead. While that sounds like a case of bad luck, after five more visits to the zoo, I’m not sure the bears even rolled over in my absence. For years, I was misled by Bear in the Big Blue House, Winnie the Pooh, and Little Bear. My childhood was shattered by furry menaces. America needs to realize that underneath the alleged cuddly and adorable shell, bears are truly evil creatures.
Maybe you’ve been persuaded by the advertisements for wildlife funds to keep polar bears alive, featuring little puffs of fur in their natural habitat. If this is the case, you are a victim of propaganda. Where is the push to keep endangered reptiles alive? According to a Feb. 15 article on the NBC News website, nearly one-fifth of reptiles are on the road to extinction. Because lizards and snakes have a disgusting and slimy stigma disguising their true beauty, their endangerment is being overlooked. Pandas and other endangered bears are being kept alive purely because they’re cute. America cannot handle the facts – harmless reptiles are dying, while bellicose bears slowly take over the public’s heart.
Bears are violent killers. From 2000 to 2010, there were 27 bear-related deaths in North America, according to backpacker.com. Seventeen of the attacks were by black bears, while 10 grizzly bears unleashed their true mission in life. As Stephen Colbert has exclaimed on The Colbert Report, bears are “Godless killing machines.”
If cold hard science isn’t enough to prove bears dangerous and useless creatures, pick up a copy of the Bible. In 2 Kings 2:23, the prophet Elisha curses children in the name of the Lord. As a result of the damnation, two bears emerge from the woods and maul 48 children. If the Bible is enough of a reason to prohibit gay marriage and abortion, it is certainly logical evidence in the fight against bears.
Bears are just about as dangerous as kitchen knives or breaking up with Taylor Swift. What other despicable attributes do these creatures possess? Bears have been involved in a string of criminal acts, from stealing to breaking and entering. According to a Sept. 25 report by ABC News, a bear in California stumbled out of the woods and stole a backpack and an iPad, belonging to a fisherman. If any human committed this act, they would be in serious trouble with the law. However, because bears are so “cuddly,” this bear was let completely off the hook. Various other reports have surfaced in the last decade, involving bears breaking into Subway restaurants, Norwegian cabins, and cars in Colorado. In Churchill, Canada, dubbed the “Polar Bear Capital of the World,” residents avoid walking the streets during bear season, and leave cars unlocked to provide refuge in case of an attack. Bears are threatening society because we’re letting them. If you are a whole-hearted American like myself, you are probably asking what you can do to aid the movement against the bears. First, we need to stop lying to children. We must stop buying Care Bear backpacks for children and or reading them Berenstein Bear books. Parents should trash teddy bears and buy stuffed reptiles instead. If we start by educating youngsters, we can erase the twisted concept of associating cuddly and cute with pandas and grizzlies. It may take several generations to completely rid society of their bear infatuation, but time is trivial when compared to saving America from these monsters.

Retail options lack quality, variety

Living in the 21st century, patience is not a trait that comes naturally, but it’s necessary if one lives in Fauquier County. Retail development would go far to ease the stress and up the entertainment quotient.
Mall: Residents must either make the dreaded drive to Fairfax or Tysons for quality shopping malls, or wait all week and wonder why the slugs at UPS are still delivering packages with horse drawn carriages. A local mall would attract business to Fauquier, refine our wardrobes, and give us something to do on weekends.
Movie Theater: When I went to Manassas to watch The Hobbit, I felt like I had made a more significant journey than Bilbo and the dwarves. But that 30 minute drive was my only option. Fauquier used to have a movie theater, but it was filthy, small, and the projector would sometimes shut off during films. A movie theater would serve to build community by providing something enjoyable for everyone.
Book Store: Mark Twain once said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” The county’s book worms have mourned the death of its one and only bookstore since Borders closed last year. There is something in the ambiance of flipping through pages while enjoying the aroma of coffee, a vibe unparalleled by ordering books from Amazon or reading eBooks or even visiting the library. We need a new bookstore to restore our sanity and to improve our intellect.
Costco: Whether you go to troll the food samples or because you really need 80 rolls of paper towels, Costco offers an unrivaled impulse shopping experience. Since the Price Club days, Costco has maintained an exquisite assortment of groceries and household necessities in large quantities for bargain prices. The proposal to build a Costco in the New Baltimore area was stymied by community and land preservation concerns and issues with traffic congestion. As of 2007, more than 7,000 Fauquier County Costco members shopped at the Manassas store. Prince William County has received massive amounts of tax revenue due to the encouragement and development of retail businesses. By building a Costco, we could participate in this revenue stream, and keep Fauquier revenue at home. With a population of over 65,000, we have outgrown Walmart.

~Jake Lunsford, staff reporter

OPINION: Drone attacks: bad policy, inhumane, unconstitutional

Turn on the news and chances are there will be a report of terrorist casualties due to a drone strike. Many will be pleased that the military and the CIA are simultaneously taking out enemy combatants and keeping troops out of harm’s way. Although this was also my initial reaction to drone attacks, recent developments have changed my perception of the drone program.
The Department of Justice recently released a 16-page memo detailing their legal reasoning for the government’s ability to coordinate strategic assassinations of U.S. citizens with a drone strike. In order for drones to be used, a citizen must be an “imminent threat” to the United States and “senior operational leaders of Al-Qaeda.” The government already put this rationale to use in September, 2011, when it killed Al-Qaeda operative, 9/11 co-conspirator, and American citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki in a drone strike. There was no attempt to capture him once his location was confirmed, and no trial, just an aerial assassination coordinated by the CIA and U.S. Air Force.
I am not defending terrorists, nor am I proposing the complete elimination of drones in warfare, but I am merely pointing out the dangers of allowing the government to assassinate citizens.
The Constitution gives American citizens a right to a fair trial, and there is no exception. The government cannot justify the intentional elimination of an American citizen where capture is possible, or in this case, not even attempted. The governments’ legal rationale is completely arbitrary and is subject to the interpretation of the executive branch. Since all of the information on Al-Qaeda comes from the CIA, no one, no media entity or activist group, can challenge whether someone is actually a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda. Since the memo is a DOJ policy statement, Congress cannot challenge it; it is up to the Supreme Court to rule on its constitutionality and that doesn’t seem likely to happen anytime soon.
Further research on the history of the drone program has made me realize the problem runs much deeper.
The drone has become President Obama’s weapon of choice in the War on Terror. His administration accounts for over 370 of the 420 strikes in Pakistan and Yemen since 2004. Although no official numbers have been released of the total estimated casualties caused by U.S. drone strikes, Senator Lindsey Graham recently estimated the number to be around 4,700, with more than a quarter of these deaths described as non-militant civilians.
How does a weapon praised for its accuracy have such a large percentage of civilians in its kill totals? What was originally used as an alternative to the insertion of special forces teams has now become a full-fledged tool of destruction. In kill-or-capture situations, drones are at a huge disadvantage because they are incapable of taking hostages and have difficulty distinguishing between enemies and civilians. Special forces operations may involve more risk to U.S. soldiers, but they can perform valuable tasks drones can’t, and they are substantially less likely to cause civilian casualties.
The large number of civilian deaths caused by these drone strikes has been met with protest from all over the Middle East. Perhaps the country most affected by these operations is Pakistan. Recently, during a speech in New York, Pakistan’s foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said, “If they’re going for terrorists, we do not disagree. But we have to find ways which are lawful, which are legal. The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory is illegal.” Obviously the drone policies are not doing our foreign relationships any favors, and President Obama is in danger of damaging his reputation.
This administration’s drone program is based on an indiscriminate and militaristic policy that kills innocent civilians of other countries, threatens international relations, and infringes upon the rights of American citizens, all in the name of safety. First it was the Patriot Act under President Bush, and now it is the justification of drone strikes that include the assassination of U.S. citizens. It’s time for the president to reconsider the abuse of human rights and how it’s impacting our already poor relationships with governments in the Middle East. He also needs to realize that the DOJ memo shows him following right in his predecessor’s footsteps, something I’m sure he’d prefer not to do. As for the American people, it’s about time for us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and ask, “How much more of my freedom am I willing to sacrifice in order to feel safe?”

~Kerian McDonald, staff reporter