The billionaire veto


Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, is introducing a new power to our American system of checks and balances: the “Billionaire Veto.”

It’s unlikely that you’ll ever see a Schoolhouse Rock video about this. The Billionaire Veto is a power that only exists informally, with the sole qualification required for use being the possession of obscene wealth. Let’s explore how we got here.

Howard Schultz teased his run for President on January 27th by tweeting “I love our country, and I am seriously considering running for president as a centrist independent.” The tweet was immediately ratioed, with 47,000 overwhelmingly negative replies far outweighing the 25,000 likes and the 4,000 retweets.

Nevertheless, Schultz persisted. First by criticizing Senator Elizabeth Warren for her proposed wealth tax and her support for progressive policies such as Medicare for All. Then by telling CNBC “I respect the Democratic Party. I no longer feel affiliated because I don’t know their views represent the majority of Americans. I don’t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America,” in reference to Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed plan of a 70% marginal tax rate on income made above 10 million dollars.

Schultz’s view on the “majority of Americans” was demonstrably incorrect. Recently, a Hill-HarrisX survey found 59% of registered voters approve of Ocasio-Cortez’s plan, and a Fox News poll found that 70% of registered voters backed hiking taxes for families making more than $10 million a year.

Schultz didn’t let these quickly debunked statements stop him from making more misinformed statements. Schultz proceeded to claim that Reagan was the best Republican president in the past 50 years, in part because he had so much respect for the position that “he never took his jacket off in the Oval Office” (there are several photos of Reagan with his jacket off in the oval office). Schultz rejected claims he was out of touch but struggled to guess the price of cereal (it’s $4, or more if you buy it at Joe’s).

It doesn’t help that Schultz has very little actual policy positions besides wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare (these are proposals that have historically always polled poorly). Schultz has mainly focused on vague platitudes about how the Democrats and Republicans are too mean-spirited towards each other, engaging too much in what he dubs “revenge politics” instead of working together.

Schultz claims that there would be broad support for a centrist candidate like himself. This is perhaps Schultz’s most ignorant assertion, a recent poll from Change Research found that only 4% of registered voters view Schultz favorably, with 40% viewing him unfavorably, and 56% not having an opinion.

This would have been more than enough to disqualify any normal candidate, but Howard Schultz has 3.4 billion dollars. He can self-fund his campaign regardless of how unpopular or disliked he is by the broader American public. While his chances for becoming president are non-existent, he has the power to make the difference in the 2020 presidential race by causing a “spoiler effect,” when two candidates split the vote and cause a third less popular candidate to win the race.

Schultz seems to be aiming his campaign at a traditionally center-left Democratic base. Doing so could take small percentages away from the Democratic nominee in battleground states where voting margins as small as 2% can sometimes make the difference, effectively handing the race to Donald Trump, the presumed Republican nominee.

This is the first ever blatant use of the Billionaire Veto. Howard Schultz isn’t taking his presidential campaign seriously because it’s not a serious presidential campaign –– it’s a threat. The threat is that if Democrats attempt to tax the rich, billionaires like Schultz will throw the election to the opposing side.

The very fact that a single man with no other qualifications other than making a fortune selling overpriced coffee can upset our electoral process to such a degree is emblematic of how broken our electoral process is. Wealth inequality continues to escalate in America, with no signs of stopping.

The top 1% of households own more than the bottom 90% of households combined. As this inequality becomes more apparent, people will support measures to decrease it, and billionaires like Howard Schultz will try to stop them. Don’t let it happen.

Indian culture moves students


India is a country known most for its Taj Mahal, unique spices, and its religion. Although many travelers are turned off from India due to its pollution and impoverished citizens, India still has a lot to offer to anyone looking to experience different food, culture, and lifestyle.

The government of India is currently a federation that utilizes a parliamentary system. The government of India has a strong central government with weaker state governments; since the 1990’s, the central government has been gaining more power. Like our government, the Indian government is comprised of a legislative branch, executive branch, and judicial branch.

“I’d say the general impression I received was dissatisfaction with the current BJP/Modi government, but an attitude that government has and can continue to be used as a force for equity and justice,” said Sam Nelson (‘21).

Nelson talked and worked with students who had parents that worked in international media, business, and even parliament.

In India, the slaughtering of cattle is generally looked down upon, but the federal government allows states to make their own laws regarding cattle. 20/29 states have some form of regulation on cattle. One reason for this is that cattle is associated with the Hindu god, Krishna. Another reason is that the slaughtering of animals goes against the beliefs of another god, Ahimsa, which is the belief of non-violence. This belief is comparable to Romans 12:17- 21 in the Bible. Since there is not a lot of animal slaughter in India compared to America, cuisine differs greatly.

“I think the American pallet has a bit of a distaste for what we think of as ‘vegetarian’ food, with leafy greens usually coming to mind. This wasn’t the case there; I got to try wonderful dishes based on just paneer (a tofu type food, but dairy based), jackfruit, or potatoes, and magnificent sauces. Another favorite was a sweet pastry called gulab jamun, which can best be compared to the most amazing donut-hole you’ve had, but better,” said Nelson.

Other students who have travelled to India agreed. “I am not a picky eater so being able to try food from a different country that was homemade was amazing. It was definitely a different diet and I became used to not eating meat as frequently, especially not even eating beef the entire time I was there,” said Rose Cyburt (‘20).

Many citizens of India are plagued by poverty. “Across from the school I worked with, there were empty skyscrapers, sitting frozen in incomplete construction, and what was basically shacks with families living a few hundred feet from their base. I think we’ve done a better job of ignoring the realities of our country,” said Nelson.

“I had the chance to take both metro rail, and a long distance train to the city of Amritsar. The Delhi metro is the newest, cleanest metro I’ve been on, having both the US and Europe to compare it to. The heavy rail to Amritsar was wonderful, as I got to see the Indian countryside,” said Nelson. Travel in India was relatively similar to that of Germany and Scotland.

Cyburt used her weekends to travel to places in India where she wasn’t teaching. “Since we didn’t teach on the weekends, the other interns and I planned a two-day trip to Amritsar which was about a 6 hour train ride from where we were in Delhi. There are many historical and religious places in Amritsar, but the most exciting was being able to go to Wagah Border. Wagah Border is where India and Pakistan have a gate to separate the countries and everyday they hold a ceremony to lower their flags at the same time.”

“When my friends and I arrived, we were taken to the VIP section and thrown into a wild dance party in the middle of the stadium that surrounded the gate. There were women hugging and kissing us on the cheeks, giving us scarves and singing. There was so much patriotism and excitement in one place,” said Cyburt.

“India is probably the most intense place in the whole world in every aspect of what makes it unique. While issues of pollution and poverty might make up some of the perception of India for an American student, the hospitality of India’s people and the enchantment of their vibrant and complex cultures should make it a must-go place for any passionate student,” said Nelson.

Students choreograph dance concert


This past weekend the Alma College Dance Company (ACDC) put on their student choreographed show. The show consisted of three performances, one Friday night and two on Saturday. This dance show even included previews to some of the senior dance majors’ final shows that will be performed this April.

The ACDC dancers bond through their dance experiences, even though many of the dancers are not dance majors. Each student created dance routines that they hoped would gain an emotional response from the audience.

“My piece is about life as a young woman, learning to love yourself through faith and friendship,” said Abbie Richardson (‘19).

“I am also performing in a piece that is an honorary tribute, an old love-story, and discovery of the weight of a human soul.”

Each of these dancers performed pieces based around different topics, be they personal, educational or political.

“My piece from this weekend’s concert will be part of my thesis dance showcase, on April 6th and 7th, where I will be choreographing [and] presenting an evening length dance concert,” said Shanell Ramos (‘19).

Ramos continued, “There will be various dance pieces such as Lyrical, Modern to Hip-Hop, Vogue, and even New Jersey Club dancing.”

Though there were few seniors choreographing for the concert, they all had memories to share from their years here to the performances this past weekend.

“Performing at Alma has been an amazing experience,” said Richardson. “All of the pieces created this year have beautiful stories behind them, and everyone will find something they can appreciate or relate to.”

Richardson wasn’t the only dancer who had something to say about watching their own work being performed. Allison Muenzer (‘20) shed some light what it is like to watch your creation.

“It is an amazing experience to watch an idea for a piece grow into a complete work of art,” said Muenzer.

Muenzer continued, “The process of conceptualizing a piece, choreographing movement, picking music, designing costumes, and setting it in a performance space is an exhilarating time that we are blessed to be able to do within the Alma College Dance Company.”

Each member of the Alma College Dance Company performed this weekend with the same nervousness that one would have on their first performance, as Kathryn Todd (‘20) explained while mentioning her hopes for the performances.

“We are a passionately encouraging and loving group and believe it or not we still get nervous to perform even after dancing for all of these years!” said Todd. “The moments we all share together as a company just before we go on stage are truly special.”

Each performance from the weekends concert was meant to showcase how united the dancers are, even with a piece created out of grief. Todd expressed that it only takes one step to become a part of the team and that anyone can do so.

“If I could offer up one piece of advice to anyone considering dance classes or dancing with the company it is absolutely to be brave and just do it. I am wired to believe that everyone can dance. We are all movers and movement as an art form is something everyone can absolutely be a part of,” said Todd.

Snow days interfere with athletics


Last week Alma College shut down classes for two days, an occurrence that happens so rarely that the campus community barely knew how to react.

Each athletic team on campus was affected differently by the winter storm, and some had to make drastic changes to their schedules.

Men’s basketball had to reschedule a home game from Wednesday, the 30th, to Monday the 4th, which affected more than just the team itself.

“We plan our practices and choreograph dances to fit their basketball schedule, along with our own needs for our upcoming competition dates in March and April,” said Tracy Burton, coach of the dance team that performs at halftime of every home men’s or women’s basketball game.

“The game change means we won’t have a full team available on Monday, due to dancer’s class schedules,” said Burton.

Along with this change of scheduling, the halftime trophy presentation of the NCAA Helper-Helper award for the Scots has been moved to Wednesday the 6th.

As for many other teams, the extreme weather caused issues with practices.

“We have to practice off campus I didn’t want the team driving to Ithaca to the bowling alley,” said Kyle Woodcock, head coach of the women’s bowling team.

There were many other teams that had to move practices indoors during the winter storm, such as men’s and women’s lacrosse.

Both lacrosse teams prefer to be practicing outside during this time of year, but had to move things inside for the week in order to keep everyone safe.

However, there has been some positives to come out of the poor weather.

“We are primarily a indoor team until the weather improves outside for baseball,” said Jason Crain, head coach of the baseball team.

“The cold temps and class cancellations has allowed us to practice mid day instead of late at night,” said Crain.

“We have been able to practice earlier, allowing the team to be done by 6 pm,” said Denny Griffin, head coach of the softball team.

“It has allowed us to do some individual work which we might have not been able to accomplish,” said Griffin. While for some teams the weather caused issues with scheduling, for others it was an opportunity to get work done during the day and spend more time on important team building

Faculty Spotlight: Von Wallmenich


Laura von Wallmenich, an English professor here at Alma, is a fantastic teacher with much experience under her belt.

“I went to a small liberal arts school in Maine called Colby College,” said von Wallmenich. She originally wanted to major in Biology, but learned that English was her passion.

“I spent a year abroad at King’s College in London so I could study both subjects in more depth; I thought seriously about pursuing that in graduate school,” she said. Her areas of interest during college were Old and Middle English, sexuality and desire in African American women’s literature and helping to run her college’s radio station.

“I loved the late evening shift best; I am a night owl. My show was called Inky Bloaters (a song reference) and featured a lot of world and alternative—with the occasional political rant thrown in,” she said of her time as a radio host.

Von Wallmenich also discussed why she wanted to become a professor, saying, “I get to pass along the tools that help transform how people think and see the world. I get to be a guide as they encounter literature that reveals new perspectives. I get to be a part of helping students grow into their potential. That is a pretty amazing thing.”

Her passions in life go beyond teaching, though. She participates in activities such as the faculty governance, she’s the yearbook advisor and she co-advises Pine River Anthology here at Alma College.

Her reach goes beyond Alma College and into the community, as she is a proud member of the Alma Democratic Party.

Von Wallmenich is a woman of many passions, being interested in not only academics, but many other activities: “In my younger days, when I lived in the Pacific Northwest, I spent a lot of time kayaking, hiking and rock climbing. Now, you are more likely to find me curled up on a couch with a good book in my spare time.”

Von Wallmenich is no stranger to travel, which is evident in her background. “I arrived in Alma in 2002, nervous about moving to a small, Midwestern town. I was born in Chicago, then moved to New Jersey. I’ve lived in London, then spent 10 years in Seattle.”

She found her way to Alma through a job posting, saying, “I always knew I wanted to teach in a liberal arts college, and when I saw the job ad for this position, it was like it was custom-tailored for me.”

“However, what really sold me on Alma was my campus interview. I recall long talks with professors in Psychology and Sociology about writing; they cared so deeply about how I taught writing and they were so interested in hearing about my research. That ability to talk across lines of different disciplines is very important to me as a thinker, teacher and scholar.”

Her final reasoning for choosing Alma College was that she “appreciated the ways this place puts undergraduate student learning at the center of everything we do.” She concluded by saying, “The students are still my favorite thing about this place.”

Smollett assaulted in hate crime


Jussie Smollett, actor on the Fox Series “Empire,” was hospitalized earlier this month after being assaulted in what is being possibly investigated as a hate crime.

The assaulters attacked Smollett on the streets in Chicago, and allegedly tied a noose around his neck while dousing him with an unknown chemical.

The crime is potentially being considered a hate crime. Smollett fell victim to the attack because of his portrayal of an openly gay character on the Fox series “Empire,” while also being a homosexual person of color in real life.

The attackers, while not currently identified at the time of publication, are two white men who are no more than 25 years old.

The attackers were caught on video right before the attack, and were seen with the noose being worn as a necktie by one of them. The video did not show the actual assault, and the video is still in the process of decided whether or not the evidence is usable in a courtroom.

A big controversial aspect of this crime are the words used by the attackers, and these words are what sparked the debate of calling this a hate crime.

Witnesses, including Smollett himself, recall hearing the attackers using racial slurs, homophobic comments and parts of President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign.

In a society where LGBTQ+ pride has become more common, and tolerance is expected, this gives some members of the community reasons to be concerned about our governments political climate.

“These events are beginning to worry me, because as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I am beginning to believe that we are truly going backward in acceptance with our current president and others in power convincing citizens that being someone like me is wrong and is becoming increasingly widespread,” said Blake Jonassen (‘22).

Some other students believe that this instance will shed a light for others to see. David Parnell (‘21) says that they are not worried that hate crimes, such as these, will set back the socio-political progress of the United States because it shows the prejudice many queer people and people of color face every day. Parnell also hopes that these attackers are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Several schools across the country have also showed concern for their students, particularly people of color and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Some schools are also doing their best to increase security measures in case of a situation like this.

“My sense of safety on campus is not moved by this incident because the attitude toward both queer and people of color is much different than what you may find at a Trump rally,” said Parnell.

Parnell believes that the students on campus are responsible for the nature of their own behavior, and if someone sees or hears about one of these incidents, they should report it immediately.

“Even though I’m worried about society in general, I do not believe that people on this campus will become hostile because all of my interactions with everyone on campus have been positive and everyone seems to be much more inclusive than the rest of society,” said Jonassen.

Both Parnell and Jonassen encourage each student to become aware of what is happening around them. If you see any person being verbally or physically assaulted, speak up and contact authorities.

Bundy film creates conversation


The trailer for the new movie about serial killer, Ted Bundy, aired last weekend the movie premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

The film, “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” portrays Bundy— played by Zac Efron— as everything he was: manipulative, maniacal, and attractive.

“I’m worried that with such a well-known—and seen by many as attractive—actor playing Ted Bundy, it will lead to people romanticizing him, which is dangerous,” said Kara Denike (’20).

The film is being ridiculed as romanticizing the idea of the serial killer’s life and his killings, but some argue that this is the nature of popular culture and media towards crimes.

“We romanticize serial killers in general,” said Matt Cicci, Professor of English and Digital Rhetoric.

“We make movies about them, people write best-selling novels about them, and then someone like Ted Bundy comes along and all of a sudden there are these memes about how attractive he is. I think what we are really talking about is this longstanding tradition of romanticizing serial killers.”

Cicci further said that the media tends to exalt white male serial killers but rarely attempts such post crime reframing with minority or female criminals.

“I think there’s a fine line to walk between being interested and romanticizing him and other serial killers,” said Denike.

The largest issue that media seems to have is the fact that Zac Efron, who has a past as being a heartthrob and the star of High School Musical, is portraying Bundy in the movie.

“This whole [debate] exists much further beyond the whole Zac Efron thing, and while it probably is a valid argument, I think it finds its roots in a longstanding history of glorifying such thing,” said Cicci.

Others believe that Efron portraying Bundy shows that any regular person could be dangerous to society.

“Not all serial killers are creepy people hiding in their basements,” said Nicole Reece (’20).

“It puts into perspective that you need to be cautious with everyone you meet. [Bundy] was a charming man. I wouldn’t go as far to say that he wasfacially attractive, but he had that charm factor, where people wanted to help him. That’s how he lured them.”

“It can’t completely judge whether it is a good thing or not that [Efron] is playing him because I haven’t seen the film yet,” Reece added.

“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” hasn’t been released yet near Alma, but once it is, perhaps Bundy film creates conversation students will see it and create their opinions then about whether the media portrays Bundy — along with other serial killers — as romanticized or in an accurate way.

Alma’s traditions of the green world


Alma College upholds a rich history involving the nature of the local region and the traditions of maintaining a green campus. Alumni and current students know the annual tradition of the pine sapling very well. The history of the campus – rooted like wildlife – gives life to the unique saturnalian mood of life on campus.

On a stroll through campus grounds, one will find the numerous amounts of marked pine trees that dot the local area. The rich tradition of preservation is a significant element of Alma College’s initiative to promote the traditions of the local wildlife.

Annually, new students of the freshman class are given pine saplings as an essential piece of their initiation to their journey on Alma’s campus. Much like the pine itself, all students are presented with a pine to care of as their experiences broaden and grow on campus.

“Much of the tradition stems out of the region that the college was founded upon and those who were instrumental in the founding of the college,” said Ann Hall, Vice President for Planning and Chief of Staff.

This tradition originates from a gracious donor and founder of Alma College who instilled the life of nature into the traditions of life on campus. The preservation of the wildlife in the Alma area contributes to freshman tradition.

“During this period, this part of the state was a logging area where there was a tremendous amount of forest. Our founder – Ammi Wright – was a logger. In honor of Wright, the College participates in this tradition,” said Hall.

Alma College was founded in 1886, and many areas of campus give a glimpse into the forested areas that the campus was founded upon. The tradition of the pines stems from the founder’s occupation in the logging industry in Michigan.

From alumni students, current students and to new students, the pine represents the tradition of growth during their experience throughout their undergraduate career at Alma College.

“We have changed the type of pine from time to time. Some years we give out White pines, and other years we give Norfolk pines,” said Hall.

Though the variety of pines that are given change every year, the message that the trees represent stay constant throughout the years. For many students on campus, the tree was a welcoming gift to their new life on campus.

“I thought the symbolic nature of the pine was interesting at the traditions dinner,” said Carly Mckibben (’19).

During the fall semester, first-year students are invited to attend a traditions dinner. The purpose of the tradition’s dinner is to welcome new students onto campus formally. At the latter half of the formal event, pines are distributed.

“I was excited to get my pine last year because a friend of mine on campus was in charge of taking care of the saplings before distributing them to the class,” said Santiago Ribedeneira (’21).

Ribedeneira nurtured his pine for the first fall semester and later sent it down to Indiana, where it will grow into a full pine tree.

“Since I could not keep the tree in the room during winter break, I went down to Indiana and decided to keep the pine there,” said Ribedeneira.

Ribedeneira plans on keeping the pine alive during his return trips to Indiana and hopes that it will continue to grow over the years during his time as an undergraduate and beyond.

The primary significance of giving pine trees to the students is for them to nurture and grow it, just as they are nutured and grow at Alma.

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