Opinion

Props & Flops

Thumbs up to Chancellor Dynes and his wife for donating approximately 178,000 to undergraduate scholorships. Thumbs down to WebReg going down all day Tuesday. Too bad we can’t still use TeSS. ...

Paradox in American Political Arena Exists In Absense of a True Leader

One of the characters of Antonio Tabucchi’s novel “”Sostiene Pereira,”” set in Portugal in the early years of the Salazar regime, says something to the effect of this: Democracy and egalitarianism are good for the British and the Americans, but we are Latin, and all we need is a leader that we can follow and love. My Latin eye looks at these words with a sad comprehension, but my American eye looks at them with a certain satisfaction. These words come back to my mind every time I hear somebody — especially on TV, it seems — talk about the crisis of leadership in this country, and how the next president should not really be competent in this or that but should only posses that ineffable “”leadership”” quality, statements of which everybody seems to know the meaning except me. While this kind of talk appears to be rather productive for one George W. Bush — well-known not to be competent in any area of human knowledge, except maybe in the ineffable ones like “”leadership”” — to claim that leadership was invented by Bush’s campaign would probably be going too far. The leadership issue has been around a lot longer than the Bush candidacy. In front of this wave of followers’ love in search of a target, I would like to propose the observation that, if there is one thing that America does not want, it is a leader. In truth, it seems like Americans are at their best when they are deprived of a leader or when they consciously reject one. Examples of this rule can be found in such disparate areas that I would propose it as general, but for the time being, I will limit it to political arguments. The American political tradition is a mix of declared pride in its form of government and substantial distrust of the same government. This is a cultural point of departure for America from its European origins and, as such, one of the points that characterizes the American experience. In Europe, especially in very dirigible countries like France, the government is not just expected to administer the services, but also to set the moral and cultural tone of society. Americans do not expect this from their government and have been known to strongly oppose any proposal in this direction. In other words, Americans do not want their government or their president (who is the most visible embodiment of the government) to be a leader of society, just a good administrator. I will not comment on this attitude. I think it has advantages and disadvantages but debating them would take me too far. I will just take note of the fact that this is what most Americans see as the role of the government and their president. Even if Americans do not specifically call for a leader, how does the political system adjust to the presence of one? In the past, presidents exercised strong leadership on a number of occasions. In many of these instances, such exercise went — in the short run, at least — against the opinions of a large part of the population. The end of slavery was strongly opposed by the agricultural Southern establishment, political support to the civil rights movement was opposed by many people in Southern states, and women’s suffrage was opposed by, well, men. These social innovations were eventually accepted by the majority but, at the time in which they were hot topics, all conservatives and a lot of moderates opposed them. Leadership is the capacity to go against such strong opposition and get away with it. Given these characteristics, what are the chances that a truly charismatic political leader would be accepted in the current political climate? Very slim at best. The public opinion is more and more uniform and directed toward acquiescence to the status quo, and in recent years we have seen the emergence of a fast mechanism by which public opinion can be coalesced and fed back to the political class. To resist this constant pressure from the public opinion and the polls would indeed require a person of uncommon characteristics; somebody willing to risk political suicide to defend certain principles. Unfortunately, these are not the characteristics that would lead one to electoral victory. An example of this attitude is the singular fate of Bill Clinton. Probably the most intelligent and charismatic president in 40 years, his first attempt to use his leadership capacity, the ill-fated health care reform of 1993-1994, generated a nationwide commotion against him to the point that he has had to fight an uphill battle for the rest of his two terms. America is therefore caught in a double impossibility. On one hand, its cultural heritage and political structure make it diffident to excessive leadership; a softer distribution of power is preferred. This distribution is breaking down into several important points, but that is a topic for a different column. On the other hand, the characteristics of the electoral process generate an incompatibility between the personal qualities of a leader and those necessary to become a president, as the current batch of major party candidates painfully reminds us. Even among them, Al Gore will probably lose the presidency because he has shown a certain knowledge of facts and numbers. George W. Bush has lied about pretty much everything during the campaign, but these lies are perceived as consequence of his ignorance and, incredibly, this fact makes him appealing and might send him to the White House. Forget about a leader. Americans want a president they can look down on. If one accepts — at least in first approximation — my analysis, it is quite natural to wonder why the question of leadership capacities comes out so soften in the political debate. The most obvious reason is that people are seldom coherent. This explanation has the advantage to apply to everything but it explains pretty much nothing. I will propose another one. It is a puritan belief that hard work and strong will bring success. But as we all know very well, this is not always the case. In this case, rather than assuming a fatalist attitude more characteristic of Catholicism, it is often easier to look for somebody to blame. I cannot help but notice that blame assignment is a particularly lively activity in America. This is why we need a leader; having the power and the moral responsibility to ensure the public satisfaction, he will be the automatic and obvious target of every popular disappointment. Creating a leader and then crushing him is a lot more satisfying, observing that certain laws and decisions that receive widespread public support often generate side effects that the same public finds unappealing. ...

Editorials

Vincent Gragnani, Editor in ChiefBill Burger, Managing EditorJeffrey White, Copy EditorTom Vu, Opinion EditorLauren I. Coartney, News EditorRobert Fulton, Sports EditorDavid Pilz, Photo Editor In the past several weeks, most polls have written off the idea of Gov. George W. Bush winning California. Vice President Al Gore had, for most of the campaign season, held a substantial lead over Bush in this state, even with Ralph Nader contending. Recently, however, under the barrage of television ads, the lead that Gore had once taken for granted has now dwindled. Gore, on the other hand, “”has yet to spend a dime on ads here,”” as the Wall Street Journal states. By swiping California from under Gore’s nose, Bush could rack up 54 Electoral College votes and, with it, the presidential election. More troubling to Gore are the states north of California. While Gore still leads in the Golden State, Oregan and Washington are considered integral swing states. And he is slowly losing ground there. Thanks to a devious television blitz by Bush supporterssome polls even show the Vice President losing these important states. The Guardian cannot help but to congratulate Bush and his supporters for their tactful, if a bit Machiavellian, campaign strategies. Bush has continued to show his resilience in California, and it has paid off. Just yesterday, Bush and John McCain were in Fresno and Burbank campaigning. “”There’s going to be a lot of shocked people on Nov. 7, including my opponent … ,”” Bush said yesterday. Perhaps he might be correct. Gore has only recently decided to visit California. Perhaps this shows his campaign’s inefficiency. Only now, after the prospect of losing California has he decided to come to Los Angeles tomorrow, his first visit to this state in more than six weeks. There has yet to be a presidential election in recent memory in which the winner has not taken California and its 54 votes, more than any state in the nation. Perhaps now, politicians will begin to take California seriously. In the much smaller states of Oregon and Washington, the same reality faces Gore. The televison ads the Bush supporters are running do not mention the name “”Bush”” at all. Rather, the ads are endorsements for Nader. Gore is not leading by a large margin, and the votes that Nader pulls away from him can tip the states to Bush’s favor. And, for the most part, it seems to be working. Though the Guardian has yet to decide whom to endorse, Bush’s strategies deserve applause. ...

McCain Pushes for Reform

A short while ago, the Balkans were in dire circumstances. This geopolitically important region, the area where World War I began, experienced an oppressive dictatorship, civil war, genocide and a late international community response, among other injustices. Finally, the people of Serbia were given the opportunity to participate in a free general election. They were able to voice their opinions on the government’s organization and operation — or so they believed. Slobodan Milosovic, however, denied his people this privilege by suppressing the results of the election and scheduling a run-off election. The people decided to take the government by force and throw Milosovic out of office. These actions should provide us with the inspiration to get involved in our political affairs. Shortly, American citizens, too, will have the opportunity to get involved in their country’s political process. In the upcoming elections, the people of the most powerful nation in the world will be given the honor and opportunity to decide who will lead this country and the rest of the world in the next century. There has not been an election this important in the nation’s history since the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s. Yet, this will probably be the election with the lowest turnout in recorded history. This disconcerting and saddening thought should weigh deeply on the American public. In this country, there simply does not exist an interest in politics and national or international affairs. Why should a country with such a strong democratic institution and secure civil liberties have such a low level of citizen interest in its political process? The answer is that the government has pushed the people away. The people feel as if they really do not have any say in the way their government operates. The powerful interest groups and multibillion dollar industries, by buying the necessary access to the levers of powers, really control this country. However, there is hope. At the beginning of the year, during the Republican primaries, there existed an astonishing amount of interest in politics. Most amazing of all was the involvement of the youth, primarily college students. The figure who captured this nationwide attention was Sen. John McCain with his campaign finance reform agenda, found in the McCain-Finegold Bill. This bill proposes to reform the manner in which candidates receive their political contributions. If passed, it will put an end to soft money donations, which allow undisclosed and unlimited contribution amounts. Soft money allows wealthy industries or individuals to have a large and dominant voice. If this bill passes, there would be an acceptable maximum contribution from each source, which would have to be declared. This way, the American public would know which organizations and individuals support each candidate. For the first time in a long while, the American people saw the potential to cause change in the selection of their leaders and to empower themselves by disempowering special interests. The basis for a political revolution was set in place. For the first time in this country’s history, someone dared to challenge the system and had the opportunity to sneak in and take the election away from the mainstream candidates. By preaching campaign finance reform and inspiring the nation’s youth, including me, McCain created many enemies for himself. Career politicians and important business figures distanced themselves from this radical maverick, who always speaks his mind regardless of popular response and who preaches absurdities that could destroy the very fabric of their way of living. How else would politicians raise money and secure their re-election if it were not for the elite buying access? More importantly, how else would the elite monopolize the voice in the decisions made for the benefit of this country? America’s youth were inspired and motivated by this man and his personal quest to restructure the government. His actions spurred a desire to rid this country of its cynicism and lack of interest in politics. It became popular to care and take an active interest in politics. McCain, however, still fights on in the Senate for his great cause. While he has had some success in the Senate passing bills while en route to his ultimate goal, he still has a long road ahead of him. The candidacy of Vice President Al Gore, although his party and McCain’s stand at odds, offers some hope for McCain’s vision. Gore has vowed to make campaign finance reform a strong and immediate priority in his agenda if elected to office. He will support a major portion, if not all of the McCain-Finegold Bill. Gov. George W. Bush, however, has not committed anything toward this important legislation. Perhaps Bush’s lack of commitment stems from the fact that the two-party system in which he is entrenched is designed to silence people like McCain and ensure that they pose no threat. The naive youth, who had the misfortune of believing in and supporting a man in Washington, find that they were right to protect themselves with cynicism. Despite Bush’s refusal to accept the McCain-Finegold Bill, McCain now campaigns heavily for Bush and supports him for the upcoming election. One would think that a maverick such as McCain would ignore party lines and support the man who promises to finish his revolution. By saying he wanted to rid the country of the stranglehold that the powerful elite have on this country, McCain revved up a new generation of voters, and disappointed them. He did this by perpetuating politics as usual. However, the sadder part of McCain’s absence in the general election is the simultaneous absence of interest in the elections, particularly among young voters. I was proud for a while to belong to a generation that had the hope and desire to make positive changes in its environment. Most importantly, we had an active interest in the world. Despite this disappointment, there is one lesson to learn from the McCain campaign: One must voice one’s opinions loudly to cause change. Voting is essential, especially in this election. Next week, the people of this nation will have the same opportunity to participate in their government that their Eastern European counterparts had. In spite of our disappointments, we can set aside our justified cynicism and achieve a similar level of participation, and hopefully trigger the passage of the revolutionary McCain-Finegold Bill. ...

Letters to the Editor

Retiring Member of UCSD deserves commendation Editor: I would like to relate a story of commitment and service by an outstanding retiring member of the UCSD community. As time was approaching to take a campus tour for what would likely be my last time with Larry Barrett, I realized how long I had known him and how gracious he had been over those 25 years. My daughter Jackie, a high school senior, invited herself along to see my alma mater and potentially hers. Larry spent almost an entire day out of his hectic schedule showing us a campus that has grown up in 40 years to be a school that, at its current level of maturity, is not recognizable to me. I was one of his first student interns in 1976 in the housing and food administration department at UCSD. The campus had approximately 10,000 students then, whereas today it has over 20,000 students. He went on to explain to my daughter that had it not been for his prodding, I might arguably have taken more time to graduate than I did. It was difficult to leave such a beautiful beach resort like La Jolla. Two of my sisters and a brother-in-law all came into contact with Larry over the years and all were received by him and aided by his generosity of time and expertise as they pursued their educations at UCSD. As I see the regentrification and the metamorphosis of UCSD to a world-class university, I cannot help but think of how much Larry has played a part in this process. Food and housing for us as new university students are the lifeblood of our collective existence as we separate from our families for the first time to proceed toward this new path of exploration that we collectively term the college experience. For me, he was an adviser in tough times and a coach in others, but fundamentally, he was a guidepost throughout. As the years rolled on, and each of my subsequent visits to the campus allowed me to see the new challenges that Larry and the university had to meet, I could see he had met each with creative solutions. As I neared the end of our campus tour, I began to realize the magnitude of the people he had come in contact with and had impacted over his 35 years of service. As I reflect on the trail that Larry leaves behind with this great university, I realize what a great leader and devoted public servant UCSD is losing. May we, as alumni and current students, be so fortunate to find someone to replace Larry that is as genuine and devoted as he has been to this university, my family and me? Thank you Larry, we will miss your class, style and leadership. — Paul A. Trevino Laguna Beach, Calif. Class of 1979 Warren College Christians Should Speak Out I am sorry that your writer Arnel Guiang is so passionately against Christianity on this campus. I can understand how the invitations to Christian events could be overwhelming to someone who is not a Christian. His point of view seems to be that of an individual who is merely annoyed by Christian pressure. It is his right to feel angry at the “”imbalance”” in Christianity when compared to religious groups, although it is not numbers that cause unbalance but the amount of heart we put into it. (Actually, I took it as a complement that he believed Christianity to be more represented than any religious group on campus, because I do not think the low number of 700 involved Christians affects the 19,000-member campus so much.) I wanted also to explain to him, on a more personal basis, that spreading the good news of Jesus is my job as a Christian. I know how wonderful it is to be in communion with God because of Jesus’ sacrifice to us on the cross. God has a plan for my life. He loves me more than I can imagine; He provides for me and He strengthens me. In my knowing that all people in this world can also have that relationship with God, how could I possibly be so selfish as to hold myself back from spreading the good news of Jesus? Not meaning to offend him or belittle his personal beliefs, I would like to suggest that he give Christianity a chance. We should all be given the chance to rightly accept or reject the beliefs of others, so instead of passing up those opportunities of joining the “”crusade,”” see for sure if Christianity is nothing more than an obstacle, rather than a path to life. Our passion comes from God and the validity of Christianity. — Sunny Parisi UCSD Student ...

Author Makes Unsuccesful Bid for Success

I am a paranoid, insecure, procrastinating, illogical student. I’m also poor. It may be due to the fact that I spend all my hard-earned money buying self-help books that I think will solve my problems but miraculously always fail. I have always been a sucker for shows like “”Oprah”” and “”The View;”” shows that promise to help you “”remember your spirit”” and reawaken your inner goddess. Something about the sappy music and the spiritually awakened guests always hits right where it hurts: in the wallet. I go off and buy the latest book to hit the self-help stands so I can A) organize my time better, B) learn to be happy even though my grades are failing and I still haven’t kissed a guy and, C) discover God in everything from hair gel to toilet paper. My friends think I’m nuts. More than $200 later, I am still as bitter and unorganized as before. I’ve perused through the books of the granddaddy of self-help, Dale Carnegie, I’ve highlighted the prose of Anthony Robbins, I have even memorized some of the spiritual laws of the enlightened Deepak Chopra to no success. Oh, sure, it works for a few days, even weeks at the most. Yet, my old self comes creeping back to me with a velocity of immeasurable force, and suddenly, Divya, the rational, articulate and organized girl, transforms like Dr. Jekyl into Mr. Hyde, and the dream of an improved me becomes dust. Alright, I’ll admit that last sentence was a bit dramatic, which makes me recall that exaggerating situations is highly frowned upon by the self-help community. I’ve come to realize how difficult it is to not “”stress the small stuff”” when small things like banging your baby toe against a door or having uneven eyebrows due to a bad waxing experience are actually quite annoying. OK, maybe Buddha may have found it easy to be able to achieve an enlightened sense of being every day, but I doubt he would have been too happy if he had two midterms, a paper and next month’s rent looming in front of him. In fact, I think he would have been downright irritated if he had to dodge crazy San Diego drivers and try to say a mantra at the same time. Come to think of it, I don’t think Oprah or Dr. Schlessinger would be able to maintain a higher consciousness if their shows were about to be canceled. The fact is, self-help books do very little if you are already a little loony from the beginning. Unfortunately, it has taken a few Benjamins to point me in the right direction. Perhaps it may be better if I just accept my inadequacies. I realize it may be better to be imperfect yet still unique. And who needs to be on time everytime, excluding firefighters and paramedics of course. I may as well accept my character flaws as quirks instead of weaknesses, although I’m sure my future husband would have a few problems with that. Just in case self-help books work though, I have a back-up plan. Stashed in my car, alongside a cell phone for emergency uses, I have a copy of the “”Seven Habits of Highly Effective People””carefully placed in my car. I’ve skipped chapters one through four, but I think I may still glean something important from the remaining few. Of course I wouldn’t be so dumb as to mention this to my therapist. I don’t think he would be too happy to hear that. ...

Letters the Editor

Editor: You know them well … or at least you should know them well. We write our checks to them for fees, parking tickets and on-campus housing. Of course, I am talking about the UC Regents. The regents are the ultimate decision-makers in the University of California, and their next meeting is Nov. 15 to Nov. 16 at the UCLA campus. This meeting is important for many people and especially important for students. At the November meeting, the regents will review and pass the annual budget for the university. The budget will detail the base expenditures and a list of initiatives the universities has planned if the California legislature provides the required financial resources. After this meeting, the real fun begins. Chancellors, administrators and UC lobbyists use the budget approved in November to pressure elected officials to allocate enough funding to make everyone in the university happy. Not surprisingly, students are often left out of the UC budget process. Although our needs are great, student concerns and budget priorities are often overlooked. This year, the University of California Student Association, a coalition of student government associations, has developed a unique budget proposal for the UC Regents to consider. The budget proposal asks the university to increase the financial support to student retention services by $30 million. This proposal would not increase student fees, as opposed to funding these services through a student fee referendum. Student retention services are vital programs that greatly improve the quality of our education and increase the retention rates of underrepresented students. Student health centers, multicultural centers, disability resources centers and counseling services are all excellent examples of student retention services. The services have not seen any substantial new funding increases in over 10 years. Insufficient funding threatens the existence of these programs and limits the amount of resources these services can provide. In addition to assisting students with course work and helping new students make the transition into college life, student services play a key role in recruiting students of color, women and low-income students for the University of California. In the absence of affirmative action, the university must take concrete steps to make our campuses a welcome place for all students. It must increase support to campus retention services by $30 million. Contact the Associated Students to get involved with the UCSA’s retention services campaign at (858) 534-0474, and urge the regents to include $30 million for student retention services in their 2001-2002 budget. — Dylan de Kervor Associate lobbyist director A.S. external affairs office ...

Despite Good Times, Some Will Try to Steal

In an era when gas prices are hardly manageable and movie ticket prices have almost tripled, consumers have resorted to breaking the rules. Cheating: It is a word that has come up time and time again, whether in school, relationships or even in the White House. But the term “”cheating”” has taken a phenomenal turn with many well-off people nowadays. With the economy in full bloom, more and more people are, for some twisted reason, taking advantage of the system by cheating at their own convenience. For some time, Americans have been involved in what is known as “”petty cheating.”” With such acts as stiffing the bill at a restaurant, returning already-worn clothes, sneaking into movie theaters and crashing expensive golf courses, people have increasingly decided to cheat the system yet gain its rewards. Though we have all been known to break the rules at one time or another, the concept of breaking the law has never been a problem for those who feel the repercussions are worth it. While some do it to protest the high prices that have surfaced recently for staples such as gas and food, others feel that paying is nothing compared to the thrill or satisfaction of taking what they feel was theirs to begin with. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, one man would sneak from coach to first-class seating in airplanes: “”The humiliation of getting sent back to coach was nothing compared to the thrill of a free upgrade.”” While petty cheating has always existed, it has been reported that there has been an increase since the recent economic boom. This, however, is the ironic point of the issue at hand, and quite a bothersome one at that. While many have reaped the benefits of this economic boom, they are the same people who are resorting to petty thefts and cheating. This begs the question: Why? The anger and frustration of paying endless taxes and being shortchanged after the economic boom has driven most to cheat the system, not necessarily by stealing, but rather by trying to get back what they feel they deserve. According to the Wall Street Journal, “”In an era of $3 greeting cards and $2-a-gallon gasoline, a surprising number of consumers feel entitled to cheat.”” With “”entitled”” being the key word, consumers are finally putting their foot down, and it seems that they are doing so just in time. It is only fair to say that it is Americans that are being cheated, not organizations cheating Americans. Although stiffing the bill at a restaurant and sneaking into first class are not suitable ways to get back at the government for high prices, people nowadays seem to have no other choice. Americans are slowly beginning to feel the pressure of the high prices and the enormous strains they have to go through in order to get what they want. For instance, going out to a single movie today costs an average of $8 for the ticket, not to mention another $10 for popcorn and drinks — $20 to see a single movie, when only 30 years ago, it cost $2 at most. With these numbers, it is no wonder that Americans have resorted to cheating the system. By taking back what they feel was taken from them, Americans are fighting back. It may seem as though these so-called “”cheaters”” are getting away with what they want; the truth is that they are. Businesses today are more lenient than they once were because competition is increasing and the satisfaction of the customer seems to be first on the list. Again, the concept of the economy and high prices have resulted in a different mode of expectations. Clothing stores have loosened their policies on returns. Restaurants believe that a happy customer is a paying customer. While all of this may seem like it would discourage cheaters, it has unexpectedly enticed them to behave even more badly. In a sense, that is the problem: While most businesses stand to complain about these cheaters, they do not take the necessary actions to stop them. With businesses failing to act out on the problem, the problem is getting worse. What is interesting in this game of cat and mouse is that people are cheating in situations that have very little worth. Well-off, middle-class consumers are willing to get caught saving $5 on a movie ticket by sneaking in, rather than opting to be civil citizens and obey the laws, despite the fact that they have more than enough money to pay for a movie ticket. One way or the other, it seems that the thrill of being “”naughty”” and going against businesses is a way in which consumers can get back at a system that has continuously cheated them. Breaking the rules has been a continuing backlash against a government that the American people believe to be unjust. It is evident that there should be something done on the side of both the government and the people in order to reduce the continuous stealing that has developed. Since the economy is at such a high, the government could take some of its surplus and use it to reduce prices of goods such as gasoline. People could also do their part by refraining from taking away from businesses and cheating the system. Although there might not be one solution to this disillusioning problem, there are ways in which it can be handled with peace. With the cooperation of both sides, petty cheating could be greatly decreased. Crime could decline steadily. While it may seem like the people are cheating the system, it is the system that is actually cheating the people. Naturally, there is no excuse for how people have been behaving, but it should be taken into consideration that this is America, and once a movement has started, it is difficult to stop. As long as cheaters feel free enough to do what they want, and as long as America is known as “”the land of the free and the home of the brave,”” the door of opportunity is wide open. ...

Prop. 36: A Threat to Society

Proposition 36 is a dangerous and misleading initiative that will only compound our growing drug epidemic. The proponents of the initiative argue that since the war on drugs failed and nonviolent drug criminals are overcrowding the jails while violent criminals are released early, drug diversion programs are the only solution. Yet Proposition 36 will inflict irreparable harm on society by prohibiting the option of jail for individuals convicted of using heroin, crack, PCP, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs. According to the summary prepared by the attorney general on the initiative, if a person is convicted of the possession, use, transportation for personal use or being under the influence of controlled substances, that person automatically receives probation and drug treatment. Under these Proposition 36 provisions, the drug offender would not be sent to jail for using illegal drugs. This rigid inflexibility by the initiative does not leave room for a judge’s or the district attorney’s interpretation of the facts or whether the history of a defendant should warrant another course of action other than the mandatory treatment. Another factor to take into consideration is that not all drug offenders are responsive to treatment, and many drug abusers pose a real threat to society if they are let back on the streets after “”treatment.”” Proposition 36 allows potentially dangerous drug abusers to remain on the street because the initiative’s safeguards are not strong enough. Although the initiative bars from automatic diversion criminals previously convicted in California of serious or violent felonies, this does not apply to out-of-state convictions. Therefore, according to the analysis by the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation on the initiative, “”someone with out-of-state convictions for rape or drug-related murders must be diverted without regard to the obvious threat to public safety of keeping such a person on the streets.”” The most shocking part of the initiative is the fact that the drug conviction will be expunged from the record of the criminal once treatment is completed. It is obvious that the intent of this initiative is not to stop the usage of illegal drugs, but to decriminalize drugs. “”Their agenda is clear,”” said executive director of the California District Attorney’s Association Larry Brown. “”They want to legalize drugs.”” This initiative is sending a very loud and clear message: “”Go ahead and use drugs, for you will get free treatment from the state, and we also will make sure your record is cleared so that it appears your conviction never took place.”” I cannot believe that if people break the law by using some illegal drug, they will have their records wiped clean once treatment is undergone; yet people who drink and drive will never get a conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol expunged from their records. Why the double standard? Our society could tell individuals who receive a DUI that if they undergo treatment successfully at Alcoholics Anonymous, their records will be expunged as well. However, our society does not see that solution as an acceptable punishment. Drunken drivers will, for years, have the record of a DUI as a reminder that their actions were wrong, and that they are forced to take responsibility for their illegal activities. Yet, under this initiative, drug abusers are given a “”get out of jail free”” card, and with treatment, a lily-white record. Unfortunately, there are loopholes in this proposition to keep addicts addicted and the drug cycle going. For instance, a drug user has three chances to try to get clean before probation is revoked and he is put in county jail for 30 days. The language of the initiative clearly displays that the authors care more about the possible monetary savings rather than what is best for society. The authors profess that the drug abuse should be a health problem, not a legal one. Yet the drug problem becomes society’s problem when the user becomes a danger to himself or others. Proposition 36 is not the way to fix the drug epidemic. Clearly, the initiative is the wrong medicine for what ails our society. If Proposition 36 is passed into law, the drug abusers will thank us and then laugh at our stupidity, for we would have made their job easier by eliminating the threat of jail time, and instead, giving them probation and the option of volunteering. My, isn’t that a really harsh punishment? ...

Prop. 38: Referendum on the Future of Schools

This November, Californians will be able to vote for a change in the education policy of our great state. If passed, Proposition 38 will give all Californians the chance to send their children to high-quality private schools. For any child, parents can receive a $4,000 voucher every year to be spent on school tuition. Currently, California spends over $8,000 per student on public education, so vouchers will actually save the state money rather than cause an increase in taxes. This public infusion of cash will increase parents’ available funds to spend on education and consequently increase the demand for a better education system. It is the goal of the proposition that the increase in demand for education will not only encourage the opening of more private schools but also force the public education system to greatly raise its quality of teaching. At issue here is not whether something needs to be done in California to overhaul the state’s abysmal education system. California ranks 49th in the nation in math proficiency, 50th in class size, 51st in teacher to student ratio (yes, that would be behind Puerto Rico, folks), and 51st in computers per student. These statistics are not too impressive for a state that, if were it to be a sovereign nation, would have the eighth-largest economy in the world. Obviously, something has to be done to change this. State-run public education in this state is simply embarrassing. It has been left in the hands of the government for far too long, and it is time to take it back. One word permeates when big government is referred to: bureaucracy. Anyone not familiar with this word need simply walk into any administration building on this campus and witness the complete and utter inefficiency and incompetence of the government at work. Simply put, government institutions are inherently bureaucratic and public education is as bureaucratic as it gets. A decision of any significance made by a public institution must pass through so much red tape, paperwork and political bumblings that it is impossible for our public school system to be responsive and cutting-edge. How can we expect our children to keep pace with a society moving forward at an astounding rate if public schools are just now beginning to concede that children of all ages need to have access to computers? The availability of school vouchers to every parent in California will empower the public and give parents the ability to choose who will educate their children. The parents can take this choice away from some bureaucrat in Sacramento who sees their child as a number, a cost and a future constituent. Private schooling will no longer be a privilege set aside for the rich. Instead, the children who need help the most will get the boost they need to reach their goals. In examining any public policy, one must look at who the proposition is meant to help. While Proposition 38 will indeed give all parents the ability to take advantage of $4,000 per year for private school, it is the economically underprivileged who truly stand to benefit from the introduction of vouchers. Inner-city and other areas of poor economic standing have, by far, the worst public schools in the state. In Los Angeles, the closer children live to downtown, the worse their public schools get. Within a 10-mile radius of the center of Los Angeles, 22 elementary schools received an “”A”” school rating in the year 2000 based on their Academic Performance Index score, an aptitude test taken by all students and averaged for the school as a whole. Reduce it to a five-mile radius and you get only one school who received an “”A.”” If a person is brave enough to go within a two-mile radius of downtown, one “”D-“” tops a long list of “”F’s.”” Compare this data to that of Palo Alto where within a 10-mile radius of downtown, 40 schools have “”A”” ratings, and within two miles, 16 schools received “”A’s”” in 2000. There is an educational divide in this state and the line is clearly drawn along racial, ethnic and socio-economic boundaries. For families living in the inner city, parents have no choice but to send their children to schools like Lincoln Elementary in the Compton Unified School District, where only 13 percent of teachers have full teaching credentials. Our society cannot be content with this being parents’ only choice for their children’s education. It is, however, futile to argue that inner-city schools are not in need of some serious change, so let us focus on what can be done now to help kids growing up in such deplorable schools. We do not need a government program to increase funding slowly over the next five years. We need a fix now. Children who will be starting kindergarten next fall need to have the choice to attend a school with qualified teachers, sufficient supplies and an environment in which they can flourish and avoid following the same path as this year’s kindergarten class at Lincoln. As income distribution in the United States, and especially in California, becomes increasingly skewed, we cannot continue to let education do the same. The one true way to start to chip away at the economic gap in this state is to start at the bottom. Better educated 5 year-olds means better educated 12-year-olds who will become better educated 18-year-olds getting into better colleges and making a life for their children better than it was for themselves. School vouchers and the empowerment of parents will accomplish this goal. The issue at hand here is choice. Pure and simple, parents deserve a choice when sending their kids to school. If they do not want to send their child to the local public school for whatever reason, they should not have to. Parents have a choice in virtually everything concerning their children; why not education? The government has had its chance to educate children and it has failed. In a few years, when we have children of our own, we will have the luxury of choice as a result of an education system designed to benefit us. What about those whom the system is designed to ignore? Will the government still choose for them? Now is our chance to ensure that all children will have the chance to grow up with the opportunities and choices they deserve. School vouchers take power from the few and give it back to those from which that power is derived: the people. ...