Archive for January, 2007
The Jewish Student Union sponsored an appearance by former Mid-East envoy under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Dennis Ross. Introduced to a standing room-only crowd by ASUO President Jared Axelrod, Ross began his speech with discussion of Iraq, it’s history, and the current occupation. Sunni insurgency, said Ross, was a given with the overthrow of Iraq. Shia militants under the overarching authority of Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani were restrained after the invasion, until the bombing of the Golden Dome at Samarrah, at which point discipline in the ranks of the Shia hierarchy was unenforceable, leading to the wider sectarian violence of today. The Iraqi governments complicity in the activities of Shia death squads and the Mahdi Army stems directly from it’s sense of it’s own insecurity, Ross asserted, pointing to the execution of Saddam Hussein. “It was a message,” said Ross.
Recounting his testimony earlier to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Ross outlined three options. The first, requires the Iraqi government to change it’s behavior and broker real political agreements, which in turn requires the United States must threaten to draw down forces to bring the Shia to the negotiating table. This option, said Ross, was unlikely to succeed. The second option, is a Bosnia-style “soft partition.” Although much of Iraq is geographically divided along sectarian lines, there are still many mixed areas. This would result in widespread ethnic cleansing, which Ross concedes has already begun. The third option is containment of the sectarian conflict. This option does not attempt to “solve” the sectarian conflict, but rather create a regional conflict in which neighboring countries work together to keep the onflict from spilling over the borders, while the U.S. redeploys its forces. “I would try for option #1,” said Ross “but position myself for option #3.”
Moving on to the topic of Iran, Ross confessed to being “less pessimistic than some… though that’s not saying much.” Ross seemed incredulous that Iran’s nuclear program is intended for peaceful purposes, based on Tehrans refusal of Europe’s offer of Light Water Reactors, which could be used for energy but not weapons. Saudi Arabia’s announcement that it is developing nuclear power, in the same wording that Iran has used, indicates that Saudi Arabia is not confident in America’s deterrent power, and would probably lead to Egypt developing nuclear capabilities as well. A middle east with several nuclear powers apparently does not lead Ambassador Ross to an optimistic state of mind. On the other hand, Iran does have several constituencies. The first is the face of the Revolutionary Guard, as epitomized by President Ahmedinejad, the second is the Mullahs who have become wealthy and are fearful of increased international isolation, and the third are the reformists epitomized by former President Khatami. The fact that two of these three factions are wary of isolation, and the fact that opinion seems to have swung against the Ahemdinejad faction means that Iran may well be containable. Ambassador Ross said that Russia and China are not the keys to influencing Iran, but that the economic power of Europe and Japan can be used to convince Tehran that it has more to lose from belligerence than it has to gain.
Addressing the Palestinian question, Ross disabused the audience of the notion that Fatah-Hamas rivalry is the main stumbling block to further negotiations. Hamas in Palestine is well aware of Palestinians’ economic hardship (worse per-capita income loss than our Great Depression), but that any pragmatism on it’s part is vetoed by the Hamas movement based in Damascus. Even were this split to be fixed though, the competition between Islamist Hamas and secular Fatah may have reached the point of no return. On his most recent trip to the region, Ambassador Ross said he was not encouraged by the virtual civil war that is occurring in Palestine. The combination of a divided Palestinian leadership and a weak Israel government makes the situation especially difficult. If you add the approval ratings of Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, Palestinian President Abu Mazen, and George W. Bush, you still don’t make to 50%, said Ross. Right now, a major peace initiative is unrealistic according to Ross, for the simple reason that there is currently no way to make a meaningful improvement in the day-to-day lives of people in the region. “One thing we don’t need in the middle east right now, where I would like to say that are credibility is low right now,” said Ross “is another grand initiative that very quickly proves hollow, because that will simply prove that diplomacy doesn’t work.”
Nathan Baker’s letter to the editor in the ODE today is good stuff. He remarks about the incidental fee, student services and succinctly depicts the ASUO’s distorted perceptions towards fiscal responsibility. Submitted by simg.
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In an online-only video interview with the Daily Emerald’s local news anchor-in-training Michael Calcagno, ASUO President Axelrod expressed optimism that the Incidental Fee can remain flat, and that such an outcome would be preferable to him. This unexpected optimism from an Executive which has been less than entirely committed to the goal of holding the I-fee at its current level is a heartening shift in the debate on fiscal responsibility in the ASUO. Axelrod points specifically to fee funding of the Student Recreation Center, which has been hemmorhaging money for the last several years, and the Career Center, which he describes as providing a basic service to students, as major factors in the current situation. Although he came up short of saying exactly how he would reduce these budgets’ impacts on the Incidental Fee, he certainly seems to be looking in the right places. At this point, the mere aknowledgement that it is possible and desireable to keep the I-Fee flat represents real leadership on the part of Axelrod, for which he should be commended. Hopefully the Axelrod Administration will be able to further elaborate on its goals and initiatives in this respect at the upcoming “Fiscal Responsibility and the ASUO: An Open Discussion” hosted by the Oregon Commentator.
The Commentator is proud to host Fiscal Responsibility and the ASUO: an Open Discussion, at 3pm Tuesday, January 30 in the EMU Alsea room. The intent of this discussion is to provide an open, informal forum for frank discussion about the state of the incidental fee, budget priorities, revenue growth, and structural changes in the PFC process. Several ASUO Senators and Executive members will be in attendance, providing fee-paying students a rare opportunity to join their elected representatives in lively discussion about a long-overlooked topic in campus discourse. Please join us in finding creative new solutions to the rising cost of higher education.
Apparently, the Earth Liberation Front, a collective of economic saboteurs whose members were responsible for a string of arson attacks in Oregon from 1996 to 2001, are looking to sell earthliberationfront.com and related domain names. Oddly, they also seem to be touting a penis extension program and generic viagra on the website. Money must be hard to come by when your group has been out of the spotlight for a few years and your most notable activists are stuck in prison.
(via Rogue Pundit)
The local branches of the SS have decided to turn their attention to protecting ourselves from ourselves. As Ted noted earlier, arbitrary enforcement of smoking bans has begun, and in Pittsburgh smoking outside is criminal. Dare not resist good citizens or face the wrath of the state!
“An Armenian national who apparently didn’t think much of anti-smoking laws blew cigarette smoke at a Pittsburgh police officer and ended up on the receiving end of a stun gun, arrested and jailed after a scuffle at the Greyhound bus terminal over the weekend.”
” He was taken to the Allegheny County Jail. Police also contacted the Armenian Consulate in Washington, D.C., and notified the Joint Terrorism Task Force.”
The editorial boards of both the Oregonian and Register-Guard weigh in on the academics versus athletics hullabaloo at the University.
From The Oregonian:
From The R-G:
It is probable that the imbalance in spending between athletics and academics will not be resolved to the professors’ satisfaction anytime soon, but that’s not the fault of this school’s administration. Rather, it is donors who tend to be more attracted to giving money to the University’s athletic programs. The football team is going to have more media recognition (no matter how poorly they perform against Mountain West teams) than any of the University’s research labs. It’s up to the professors themselves to curry favor with private donors and encourage them to start putting more money into the learning side of things, rather than criticizing the administration. The administration, for its part, seems to be doing what it can.
The Happy Shiny Democratic Peoples Republic of Eugene has gone too far this time. In yet another attempt to deny its citizens the right to make any choices for themselves, city inspectors have declared that the covered portion of Rennie’s upstairs smoking deck no longer conforms to Eugene’s smoking ban. At first glance, this might seem to not make sense, considering that the ban was enacted in 2000. Well guess what, sucka? It’s been toughened.
The original ban defined “enclosed area” logically enough as “A space between a floor and a ceiling that is enclosed on all sides by solid walls or windows.” Apparently people were still dropping like flies in smoking areas which “conformed to the letter but not the spirit of the law,” because in November of last year, City Manager Dennis Green issued an administrative order requiring smoking areas to be “at least 75% open.”
The covered portion of Rennie’s smoking deck has a ceiling, a floor, and three walls. It is completely open, smoke has nowhere to stagnate, and airflow is brisk. Regardless, this draconian new definition requires them to ban smoking on that portion of the deck, forcing smokers to the uncovered edge of the deck, with only a pop-up tent for covering. Unbelievably, Rennie’s was also told that “they were lucky” that the downstairs smoking area (which has only one wall) stayed open because the wrought iron fence could constitute a wall under the new rules. That’s right, a completely permeable wall that couldn’t stop smoke from going anywhere nearly shut down most of the remaining smoking area.
This situation seems out of control. The city seems to have completely lost sight of its priorities, and is engaging in a campaign to systematically eliminate its citizens freedom to smoke in a manner that is not harming anyone. The 75% rule means that there can be only one wall in a smoking area, making it nearly impossible for bars who want to allow their customers to smoke, to create an area in which to do so which also complies with OLCC regulations which require that alcohol be served only in areas divided from the public. City government clearly doesn’t care that bars want to give smokers the opportunity to drink and smoke in such a way that prevents harm to employees and bystanders. This is not a campaign to keep non-smokers safe: it is a neo-prohibitionist assault on personal freedom, and responsible free enterprise. For shame.
The Oregon Commentator has received a $750 “Balance in Media” grant from the conservative organization, The Leadership Institute. The grant will be used, in part, to complete our computing upgrade.
This is it: the inevitable letdown for those who thought that the PFC’s historically low 2.5% budget benchmark would herald a new era of fiscal reponsibility in the ASUO. The Emerald is reporting today that the PFC has already overspent its benchmark, only two meetings into the budget year. This move will come as a surprise only to those who haven’t heard President Axelrod call the benchmark “impossible,” or PFC Chairman Oscar Guerra call it a “suggestion.”
The Emerald’s coverage singles out the Student Recreation Center (SRC) as the main culprit for the budget overrun, following the Axelrod Administrations playbook, which used the SRC budget as a hollow symbol of opposition to the benchmark. According to the Emerald, the SRC “has been running in the red for close to three years, and will continue to do so even with (the 11.7% increase awarded by the PFC).” Dennis Munroe, director of Physical And Recreational Services is quoted as saying that “for the past few years… the PFC has been imposing limits on budget increases, which have caused the SRC to have to dip into reserve equipment funds to pay basic operational costs.” Now to be fair, we do not have a copy of the SRC budget in front of us. There may well be a passable explanation for why, the in the land of PARS, 10%+ cost inflation is the norm. If such a reason exists however, it has not yet been adequately explained. The problem is not so much that the SRC needs an 11%+ increase now, as it is that the SRC has needed such huge increases every single year, despite the PFC’s attempts to limit them. If the PFC sets a reasonable limit on increases, and you then dip into reserves, only to come crying for even more the next year, you have serious problems with responsibility and accountability which must be looked into.
Furthermore, the problem goes well beyond any one program. The SRC is clearly one of the toughest cases for the PFC (which is why everyone wants to use it as an excuse to throw responsibility to the wind), but the reality is that the PFC has, thus far, increased 12 of the 14 budgets it has had hearings for. Since these are contracts and departments, the much-vaunted increase in minimum wage is an easy scapegoat for this complete non-attempt at responsibility. The only semblance of responsible decision-making came when the PFC awarded a 0% increase for OSPIRG, which probably should be completely defunded anyway.
All this proves one thing that has been abundantly clear for a long time: it is way too easy for the ASUO to make no efforts to control the fee, and simply allow the PFC to force up the fee for next years students. If the Student Senate really believed in the 2.5% increase it voted on, it should make it clear to the PFC now that this rampant spending won’t stand up to scrutiny. Either way, students who are concerned with the rising fee should organize now to develop a comprehensive agenda aimed at controlling the fee growth for next years ASUO. Former ASUO President and Eugene City Councilor Bobby Lee spoke to the student Senate last week, and he emphasized the fact that time is the real enemy of student politics. It may, even now, be too late to prevent a considerable increase in next years fee, considering the excruciating wrangling that it would take to veto or vote down the PFC budget, and rework it. If this years ASUO has decided not to take up the fight for fiscal responsibility, than there should be no question but that this issue should be used against incumbents in the upcoming campaign.
This weekend the Commentator received a donation of four computers from Portland-based remote data mirroring firm Miralink. The computers, which had been used in Miralink’s research lab, will combine to provide two systems capable of running Adobe’s Creative Suite with which the Commentator is created (and a couple of “parts boxes” to rust in the front yard). With these new computers, we will be able to ditch the aging g4 and iMac for the new-to-us P4′s from Miralink and a recently-purchased Dual-core monster. Although this does mean that we will now be able to *gasp* simultaneously run Photoshop and InDesign (!), according to Apple’s asinine marketing campaign, it also means that we’ll have to become dull and conventional. Oh Well.
Oh, and we love you Miralink!