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Archive for April, 2007

The Sad State Of Race Relations

Monday, April 30th, 2007

The Daily Emerald is running twin stories on the Senate protest of April 18, one from the perspective of the student group protesters, and another on “the senate response.” As much as I would love to give both the line-by-line fisking they so richly deserve, I will refrain from doing so here. Suffice it to say that they make it clear that this entire situation is entirely about money, and that in the pursuit of money, people seem willing to distort the facts and rampantly accuse Senators of racism. Just keep a few facts in mind while you read: first, there is no issue of cuts, as benchmark debates are solely over how much the budget should grow; second, treatment of groups is uniform regardless of their advocacy; and third, that when Oscar Guerra says “That’s what we mean by institutionalized racism… The system is set up so that it doesn’t allow for individuals to consider the value of programs,” he is advocating for viewpoint non-neutrality, which the Supreme Court of the U.S. has deemed illegal in it’s Southworth decision.

On a similar (and equally ridiculous) note, the University of Rhode Island College Republicans recently tried to create a “White Heterosexual Male Scholarship” and was duly slapped down by their Student Organizations Advisory and Review Committee for discriminatory practices. Read all about it over at Hit and Run.

Appropriations Update: Spending Money Isn’t Always Easy

Monday, April 30th, 2007

After all the “what would YOU spend a million bucks on?” hoopla, the “showers of money” posters, the facebook group, the endorsement of illegal proposals, and the general rush to spend this legendary wad of scrilla, the Senatee Appropriations process has officially broken down. Last Wednesday, the full Senate heard the two proposed “spending packages,” didn’t like what it saw, and sent them back to the Appropriations Committee to facilitate an entirely new process from the one laid out in Senate Bill 23.

SB23, which created the Appropriations process, was passed at the end of one of the most epic and controversial Senate meetings of the year, right after budget benchmarks were set. After the 4+ hour dogfight over benchmarks, nobody on Senate wanted to even discuss SB23, and the result was a deeply flawed process that has frustrated everyone involved, from Senators to those promoting the proposals. Since the “jam proposals into two random spending packages” process has failed, the Appropriations Committee has enacted a process in which some 20+ proposals will get 2 minutes to present, and then Senate will vote on proposals individually. Of course, this will violate the procedure they set up in SB23, and negates most of the work the Committee had done, but that’s their perogative. Since they were already in violations of SB23, the Appropriations Committee added two new proposal (Climate Neutral Campus and Miller Theater Complex) and amended one (MCC expansion, up from $160,000 to $300,000).

There are a number of major problems with this entire situation, some of them are obvious and others only should be obvious. The biggest problem is that there has been such an intense rush to spend this money as soon as possible, that no thought went into planning the process, and now Senate wants to spend it while making up the rules as they go along. There is no real reason that any of the money has to be spent before the arbitrary deadline in SB23 of next week, in fact, there’s no reason it has to be spent this year at all. When handing out nearly a million bucks, the most important consideration is that the process is fair and easily understood, and the current situation doesn’t meet either of those criteria.

A final problem is the fact that Senate has not publicized Green Tape Notebook rules on overrealized spending, and as a result, I fear that many of the proposals will not pass constitutional muster if approved. The GTN states that

Allocation of (Overrealized Fund) must only be used in accordance with the
following criteria:
(1) Address one-time, non-recurring expenses for which other funding sources are
not available or are inappropriate;
(2) Benefit large groups of students or to support projects with a broad base of
student support;
(3) Address issues of an emergency nature that have an impact on students;
(4) Respond to special or unique targets of opportunity, where investment of
resources will result in substantial savings of student fees;
(5) Reduction of fee collections. Currently enrolled students, ASUO recognized
student groups, and any programs or departments funded as a supplement to
the following year’s fee collections or as a source for student-recommended
fees are eligible to request and receive an allocation of over-realized funds.

The only proposal that really meets all of these requirements is the Student Recreation Center’s “Deficit Solution,” which requires about $200,000. This Wednesday, Senate needs to recognize that the appropriations process is broken, and rather than spending money because it’s there, and  because it feels good to spend money, Senate should focus on  reworking the process so that it is fair and y’know, constitutional. If Senate just has to spend something, spend on the Rec Center because the proposal actually meets the Constitutional requirements, and will protect a multi-million dollar investment of student funds.

Even the French don’t like the French

Monday, April 30th, 2007

This has to be one of the more amusing stories I’ve stumbled across recently:

According to a recent poll, 44% of the French have a negative view of themselves. This is even worse than the 38% of Americans that have a negative view toward the French. Of course, I doubt France is going to rename French fries to something like Freedom fries any time soon.

See here, and of course Google turns up more results.

Hamilton Appeals Removal

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Former Senate President Sara Hamilton’s removal from Senate by the Constitution Court has been appealed in an 11 page document filed with the court on Wednesday. The appeal alleges a number of procedural violations by Con Court, including failure to provide Hamilton with a copy of the grievance, searching for violations not contained in the grievance, and engaging in ex parte contact with ASUO President Jared Axelrod. According to the Daily Emerald, Axelrod has confirmed that he spoke with Chief Justic Matt Greene about the grievance, but “could not recall if the conversation happened before or after the court had made a decision.”

It looks like the Con Court has finally been called out on it’s less than spectacular performance, and good riddance. The court’s decisions in matters of controversy this year have been timid, yet unintentionally (?) activist, and it warms the heart of this failed petitioner to see someone stick it to them. There are more questions for the court to answer, including whether or not former justice Jerome Roberts took part in decisions and/or received stipends while not a student at the University of Oregon.  What a pity that the ultimate arbiters of ASUO law have such a spotty track record this year… See Hamilton serve them up a tasty helping of smackdown here.

UO Safety Policies or Run, Bitch, Run!!!

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

My letter to the Emerald published Wednesday questions the safety of students in the event of a suicidal shooter on campus, and primarily questions the ability of the police or University to keep us safe. A nice person sent me a memo outlining the administration’s concerns about student safety due to the VTech shooting – apparently to quell criticisms. Unfortuneatly, the letter illustrates my point, and lets see how it compares to the strategy VTech used.

1.

The UO has several communication systems to notify members of the university community of emergencies. Each building has a full‐time staff member who is designated as the building manager. We use telephone and e‐mail to communicate with the building managers, who coordinate information flow with students, faculty and staff. In addition, the staff members administering the university Web site are prepared to post updates to unfolding emergencies. The university can also activate a recorded message, allowing community members to call in and listen to updates and safety instructions.

VTech also has these “communication systems” i.e. phones, e-mail, and a website. Someone must be there to utilize them though, and the VT administration sent a wide e-mail about an hour-and-a-half after the first two victims were killed – right before the second slaughter.

2.

In addition, many in leadership positions of the university have completed crisis management and communication training designed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In our effort to be prepared for any eventuality, we periodically train for a variety of scenarios

What?!? You’re actually admitting you were trained by FEMA? One of the largest cities in the US was destroyed and FEMA did practically nothing about it – hrm…which is probably what would happen if there was an emergency on campus.

3.

We have consulted student, faculty and administration leaders on campus and will continue to work to enhance the safety while still recognizing the sad truth that sometimes there is no way to prevent dangers of the larger world from intruding on campus.

The last sentence is an honest admission that the University cannot protect you from everything while on campus, which is a nice change from the “we’re the only ones who can protect you” stance typically taken. Sometimes there isn’t a way to prevent every danger, but there are good ways of deterring it and reducing the risk. With this in mind, students should be encouraged to be proactive about their safety, including allowing students to carry concealed weapons.

4.

If you should see anyone who is behaving in a manner that you think might be threatening, or anything that you think might pose a danger, please immediately notify the Department of Public Safety at 346‐6666.

This is wrong – if you see anything that might be a danger, protect your self first, then call 911 when you safely can. If you are being attacked, or shot at, defend your life first at all costs!

In this memo, the University gives potentially life-threatening advice, and shares none of the policies that actually would be enacted in the case of an emergency – such as will DPS officers risk their lives to save students? I think we all know the answer.

Senate Report 4/25/07:

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Senate bounced back from last weeks bitter, contentious meeting by holding a cordial but useless meeting last night. The confrontational spirit which made last Wednesday the most fun I’ve ever had in five hours was blessedly gone, and Senators seemed to be sporting a hangover which gave the meeting a bumbling, awkward feel. For Senate meeting aficionados like myself, it was a return to the old “nobody knows the rules, and nobody cares” Senate that we all know and love. Good times. (more…)

The Jihad on E.T.

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

It’s always wonderful to see your tax dollars at work. After all, what could be better than breathing the sweet air of freedom, safe in the knowledge that defense planners are working hard to keep you safe from E.T.? At a time when our policymakers seem so cut off from reality, isn’t it nice to know that the hard-learned lessons of Iraq will allow us to defend ourselves from the alien overlords? How pumped are you for the Jihad on E.T.?

Travis Taylor, whose blog doctravis.com is linked above, is the co-author of “An Introduction to Planetary Defense: A Study of Modern Warfare Applied to Extra-Terrestrial Invasion,” along with Bob Boan, Charles Anding, and Thomas Conley Powell, which apparently outlines defenses against some hypothetical alien attack. Reviews from the book’s website are glowing. “It should be on the reading list of anyone who is serious about national security and the future of war,” says “Bestselling Military Sci-Fi author” John Ringo. “It looks like the time has come to take a serious look at planetary defense from all aspects,” says Gerald B. Helman, former US Ambassador to the UN Geneva and Deputy to the Undersecretary of the State for Political Affairs. Hell, UFOdigest.com even gives it a good review… I’m sold.

The best defense of the work comes from Travis himself, as it was apparently inspired by -get this- lessons learned in Iraq? Travis explains to Reuters how the lessons of Iraq are finally being applied to defense planning:

Taylor and Boan started thinking about how to respond to an aggressive extraterrestrial attack during a 2001 discussion about defending against terrorist attacks.

“One thing that popped into my mind was that the only way Americans would be in an asymmetric war on the other side would be if we were attacked by aliens. Everyone chuckled, but then after a minute the comments started setting in,” Taylor said.

“Then we really got to talking about it and we thought, well, you know, we really might need this contingency plan anyway,” Taylor said.

Failure to prepare may mean mankind will have to dig in and fight with improvised weapons and hit-and-run tactics, much the same way Islamic extremists have battled the U.S. military in Iraq, Taylor said.
“You’d have to create an insurgency, a mujahideen-type resistance,” Taylor said. “The insurgents know how to win this war against us. It also tells us that if we were attacked by aliens, this is our best defence.”

Also from Reuters,

Taylor and Boan are hardly basement-dwelling paranoids obsessed with tinfoil hats and Area 51. Taylor holds advanced degrees in astronomy and physics, and is an associate at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. He and Boan have done consulting work for the Defence Department and (NASA).

Hat Tip: Hit and Run. Don’t forget to check out Dr. Taylor’s blog… it’s full of the good, hard science you’d expect.

Daniels Resignation Statement

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Jacob Daniels has been involved in the ASUO for a long time. He has run for Executive twice, served on Senate, the PFC and numerous other committees and programs. He resigned after last weeks Senate meeting, and has released this statement, detailing his decision. (more…)

One More Time …

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

In this post 4-18-07 world, it is good to see that the Emerald still prints the “institutionally racist” words of Tyler Graf, who has brought some comon sense to the editorial page of the Emerald. As he accurately points out, it is not that the diverse body of the Student Senate is racist or incsensitive, but instead are lacking the maturity to properly fulfill their duties as student politicians.

On another note, I personally have to thank people like Tyler and Ted who have had the courage to stand up in the name of common sense throughout this situation. Because it touches on many sensitive topics of discussion, it is not easy to make your point before the claim of “racist” or “hetero sexist” or any other “ist” or “ism” is slapped down on you. Both have managed to create an intelligent dialogue, of which people on all sides of this issue have come to respect. It is not always easy to stand up and speak in such a heated political climate where the fight is very personal, but both have done the OC proud in standing for maturity, personal responsibility, and criticism of all forms of government, no matter how disfunctional or inane.

ASUO GENERAL ELECTION RESULTS

Friday, April 20th, 2007

The votes are in, and the 2007/2008 ASUO Executive will be Emily McLain and San SunOwen. The pair won the election with 1897 votes, with voting rates down from last years high of nearly 20%. Sara Hamilton and Athan Papailiou came in second place, with 1752 votes. In a dramatic twist however, the Hamilton/Papailiou slate, Campaign For Change swept every other contested seat, giving them significant power in next years political fandango.

On an editorial note, The Commentator had endorsed Hamiilton and Papailiou, and most of their slate. I still see this as a victory for responsible government, because Emily McLain will be an excellent Executive because she’ll have responsible allies on the finance committees, who will be committed to spending every dollar responsibly. In any case, the elections are over, and thank whichever good lord you like for that.

More On “Fight Club”

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

We received an anonymous letter yesterday, which sheds more light on the “Fight Club” rumors which have been swirling around this election season. The “Concerned Student of the University of Oregon and ASUO outsider” who wrote the letter didn’t reveal thetir identity, which does call into question the veracity of the opinions expressed. Nevertheless, it’s an interesting read, and the writer seems well informed. Read for yourself.

Page one.

Page two.

Senate Report 4/18/07: Choose the subtitle that makes you feel safe

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Student Senate had a meeting last night, and the wheels were clearly coming off. The meeting was gaveled to order by Jon Rosenberg, because Senate President and Executive Candidate Sara Hamilton had been summarily removed from Senate by Con Court hours before, for (get this) submitting meeting agendas only 24 hours before meetings, instead of 48 hours before. So, suffice it to say that things started off awkward, and they only got worse.

After wrangling and pettiness (nobody likes oversight in action) over special requests, and a brief and fruitless discussion about the Hamilton situation, it was time for Senator Nate Gulley’s ethics hearing. What happened next is difficult to describe accurately. A group of around 50 people arrived for the hearing, wearing “silenced” bands across their mouths, and holding signs with a number of messages for Senate. Among the messages represented were, that Senate lacked respect for students of marginalized communities, that Senate perpetuated white supremacist power structures, and that Senate is not a safe place from a number of “isms.” During the hearing, Gulley asked the crowd to defend him, and many present shared how they felt marginalized, and how institutional racism exists on Senate, but the only real defense of Gulley was based on the context of this institutional racism, rather than on his actions themselves. MCC Director Steve Morizumi summed up the defense by saying (and I’m paraphrasing) “If this racist institution finds Nate’s actions offensive, he should be praised.”

Long story short, Nate was cleared of all charges, Senate will be participating in some form of awareness and/or sensitivity training, and at the end of it all, Senators Karl Mourfi and Jacob Daniels resigned. I’m still processing what happened, but this discussion is not over. This situation won’t be resolved here, but I’m sure people want to share their thoughts from last night. One request for people on every side of this discussion: Let’s please keep our sense of humor.

Obligatory Emerald links here, and here. Video here.

Executive Debate Report

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

After the VP candidates were done sparring, last nights debate shifted to the Executive candidates, Emily McLain and Sara Hamilton. Although the Exec debate was not quite the study in contrast that the VP debate was, there was still enough daylight between the candidates to provide undecided voters with a clear choice. (more…)

Vice-Presidential Debate Report

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007

Last nights Executive debate began with the vice-presidential debate, providing the VP hopefulls an opportunity to emerge from the shadows of their ticket-mates. The two vice-presidential candidates, San SunOwen and Athan Papailiou, tackled questions ranging from slate politics to the Virginia Tech shooting, in an exchange which was every bit as heated as the following Executive Debate. (more…)

Shooting at Virgina Tech

Monday, April 16th, 2007

As now the reports are 30+ dead and another two dozen wounded in a rampage shooting. The Brady Campaign has already issued a pretty odious press-release to use this awful event as fodder for their political agenda. My condolences to the families and victims not only for the shooting, but also for becoming the latest unwilling faces for a hot-button issue in American politics. [Via H&R, avoid the comments for your own sanity.]