Opinion

Scientists Unwisely Play Role of 'God'

The revolutionary new fertility procedure conceived by New Jersey scientists that spawned the birth of the world’s first 15 genetically modified babies is a frightening example of the lengths to which science will go to achieve the miracle of birth. The technique seems like something from an episode of the “”X-Files.”” Doctors take an egg from an infertile woman, an egg from a donor woman and sperm from the infertile woman’s mate. The doctors suck out the cytoplasm of the donor egg with a microscopic needle. The cytoplasm is then injected into the infertile woman’s egg, along with the sperm, to fertilize it. The doctors believe the procedure helps women who are unable to conceive because of defects in their eggs. These doctors now have 15 babies to put up on their pedestal of scientific marvels. But the controversy doesn’t end there. The new fertility treatment creates one child who has DNA from two biological mothers. How is this possible? According to Dr. Jacques Cohen, scientific director of assisted reproduction at the institute that produced the embryos, the method can introduce mitochondrial DNA from the female donor’s egg into the mix of genetic material from the mother and father. The institute took blood tests and confirmed that two of the 15 babies produced at the institute were carrying genetic material from the birth mother, the father and the woman who donated an egg. While this treatment is a blessing and a miracle for those infertile couples, it warrants a look at the proven and potential consequences. The most glaring concern expressed by many dissidents is that the procedure is unethical because it leaves a child with three biological parents. Cohen responded to these criticisms in an interview with Reuters, saying, “”I don’t think this is wrong at all. And I think we have to look at the positive part here. I think this did work. These babies wouldn’t have been born if we wouldn’t have done this.”” Cohen’s answer to the critics of the controversial procedure is quite telling and rather surprising. Like a seasoned politician, he deftly side-stepped addressing the critics’ concerns and steamrolled to his mantra: “”Look at the positive part here … this did work.”” The response that “”this did work”” as an excuse for the risky procedure is completely arrogant and reckless, for it reveals the doctor’s belief that achieving the end result is all that matters. It is obvious that the doctors had no concern for the fact that they were experimenting with real babies. Cohen’s choice to duck those valid concerns raised by critics begs the question: What are you trying to hide? The statement that “”these babies wouldn’t have been born if we wouldn’t have done this”” is shocking. Do the ends justify whatever the means may be? The big picture and ramifications for the future are more important than having those babies at any cost. Cohen is so shortsighted that he doesn’t see what he has created with these genetically modified babies. The tri-genetic code will be passed down to future generations. Though the consequences of playing with and modifying the genetic code of these babies and their future babies are not yet known, it is obvious that the doctors have derailed the course of nature. Who’s to say what the future consequences are for such genetic modification via this fertility procedure? While the world waits for the answer, other doctors in the United States continue to experiment and create genetically modified babies. However, the concerns about this procedure and the unknown costs are so strong that Britain has banned the fertility procedure. Britain’s Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority has not licensed researchers to use the technique, on the basis that it does not have a proven safety record and could let in germline genetic modification, which would allow for the introduction of deliberate genetic changes into human embryos — the changes that will be inherited by their offspring when they are conceived. Many people view germline engineering as a qualitative shift in the history of human intervention in natural processes that may take us an irrevocable step toward self-creation, or self-destruction. Others see such fears as exaggerated, based on scientific misunderstanding or irrational fears. Since there is no proof yet, any sort of definite conclusion drawn from these two extreme views will be merely guesswork. How far will science go in the realm of genetic modifications? How much will they tinker and toy with the future of our very humanity? If the doctors’ objectives are to get the baby born regardless of the consequences, I shudder to think what these scientists have in store for us. Once we allow this new fertility procedure, it will be down the medical ethical slippery slope for us all. Anything and everything will be fair game. Just watch. ...

Nexus is Placed in a Bind

2001 has not been a good year for UCSD elections. One of the low points occurred on April 10, when the student council “”election”” at Marshall college turned into a disgrace. Due to disqualification, students were left with only one candidate to choose from for each of the eight positions. Nexus, one out of two slates running in the election, was eliminated due to numerous violations, including posting too many signs and “”dorm storming”” (going into residence halls to solicit votes). As a result, the other slate, Marshall Posse, automatically won all eight positions. As your average Marshall frshman, at first the whole ordeal just seemed kind of bothersome to me. I was troubled that I didn’t get to choose, but who gives a crap about Nexus or Marshall Posse? Someone’s just going to come in and go through the motions. However, the more I looked into the issue, the more it alarmed me. And the more I looked at Nexus, the more I understood the positive messages it has for UCSD. The idea of such a lopsided election at Marshall college is particularly upsetting and ironic, because the school was established in 1970 as a college for students who questioned the messages that society sends, and as an institution that advocated social change. Whether Marshall college lives up to its role of political activist is in the eye of the beholder. Nexus, however, fits this bill perfectly. It was just a group of students that wanted to make a difference, to make our time in college more enjoyable — and above all, to get more students involved in the decision-making process that affects us all. After meeting with student council chair candidate Adam Sherry, vice chair candidate Brent Nibecker and director of finance candidate Mike Afshar, their good intentions for Marshall college became apparent, as did the full extent of the mistake made in eliminating them. “”The main thing we based this campaign on was the fact that people around us weren’t happy,”” Sherry said. “”This school has so much potential that is not realized.”” The problem is, students are not talking loudly enough. How is the school supposed to know what we want or need? There’s S.C.O.R.E., a weekly meeting where students can voice complaints. But it is not always the current situation that needs to be remedied; there are new things that can be done to improve our way of life. Nexus proposed a solution to the problem of miscommunication: Get more students involved in council meetings. “”If we’re spending a few thousand dollars, I want more than 20 kids to be involved in it,”” Afshar said. Nexus’ answer is simple and sound. Hold public forums, which students will know about ahead of time, in which student concerns can be addressed. This isn’t the same as S.C.O.R.E. — it’s getting students involved in what the student council does. The parliamentary procedure and boring stuff will be left for more official council meetings. Perhaps people might not have shown up anyway, but maybe they would have, and Nexus would have given students a chance to be heard. Nexus was punished essentially for wanting just that — to be heard. Sure, maybe it posted more flyers than were allowed, but is that really such a big deal? Its members put their voices out there and tried to make some changes, but they were denied any chance to help the student body. The circumstances in which Nexus was booted are suspicious. In addition, members of Nexus complain that their punishment — which included 15 hours of community service and an ethics class — was too harsh. First, Marshall Posse was faced with many of the same charges as Nexus, yet went unpunished. Regardless of the parties’ guilt, the manner in which the election rules committee handled the situation was unfair. According to Sherry and Afshar, while Marshall Posse was allowed a hearing to contest the allegations, Nexus never had an opportunity to defend itself in front of the rules committee that eliminated it. How can a college that supposedly advocates social change allow the ideas of these eight students to be barred by trivial rules and regulations? In a school that is lacking student involvement (look at the less than 25 percent voter turnout for the recent A.S. elections), to have candidates turned away from an election is appalling. Even Marshall college’s “”Dimensions of Culture”” sequence emphasizes the idea of procedural vs. substantive justice, or essentially, following the rules vs. trying to get the best result. Nexus broke the rules. It got kicked out. That’s the procedure, that’s how we maintain order. But how can anything ever change if rules aren’t broken? If Rosa Parks didn’t take a seat at the front of the bus? If Elizabeth I didn’t rule England? If America never rebelled against Great Britain? Nexus was something different, and instead we responded in the same old way. Nobody cared about its radical stance, or knew what to do about it, until it was time to suppress its members’ ideas just because of some stupid old rule. Why are we so afraid to stray from the beaten path? College is not just about classes and diplomas, it’s about possibilities and opportunities. This isn’t junior high school, where student government candidates feed us empty promises of longer lunch breaks and field trips to Disneyland. The real world is a place of substance, where following procedure strictly won’t always get you where you need to be, and you can’t stand still waiting for something — anything — to happen. We should all be like Nexus, just a bunch of average college kids, trying to make things happen. ...

Bush's First 100 Were Positive

It has been tradition since the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt to grade new presidential administrations by what they have accomplished in their first 100 days in office. The media and the rest of the nation decided to follow that tradition, and for the most part, have given our 43rd president good marks. President George W. Bush’s approval ratings have gone up, and deservedly so, since he took the oath of office back in January. Much of the nation felt a bit of unease when they heard that the governor of Texas had failed a pop quiz on world leaders. The fear was that if he could not call to mind who the president of the breakaway republic of Chechnya was, that there would be no way in which he could be expected to deal with international leaders in a meaningful and thoughtful manner. The president has risen to the occasion as is customary of him. With a cool demeanor and steady hand, Bush negotiated the release of our 24 servicemen and women from their detention on Hainan Island. When many across the country said that we should apologize to the Chinese when their jet ran into our slow-moving reconnaissance plane, the president knew that the prestige of the nation was at stake. The president knew better than to apologize for an accident caused by the foolish mistakes of a cocky Chinese jet fighter pilot. Bush also knew that the Chinese had more to lose in this game of international chicken than did the United States. He knew that anti-American hard liners had to be appeased by the government of Jiang Zemin before the crew could be returned home. So the president stood his ground with all of the gravitas becoming of the leader of the free world. Because of the president’s actions, the United States stands a bit taller in the eyes of the world, the Chinese know that they will not be able to bully this president and this country, and our 24 servicemen and women are safely back on American soil enjoying a well-deserved 30-day leave. On the domestic front, these first 100 days have shown that the president is truly bringing a new tone to our capital. He is ushering in an era of bipartisanship. No longer is Washington, D.C. a place of gridlock and partisan wrangling, it is a place where solutions are found. Quite soon, the president will be able to sign an economic stimulus package in which the American taxpayer will receive a $1.35 trillion tax cut over the next 11 years. With the support of many moderate Democrats, the administration will be able to push through the promised tax cut. Admittedly, $1.35 trillion is not as much as the $1.6 trillion that the president initially proposed; however, one can hardly expect to get everything one wants in the world of politics. The $1.35 trillion, of course, is much more than the $600 billion that congressional Democrats proposed late last year. It is easy to see why the president can claim victory for the tax reductions that the American people will receive. During campaign 2000, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore contended that a Bush tax cut would be risky for the country because it would cause our spending deficits and our national debt to rise. A tax cut would leave less revenue in the government’s coffers, he argued. The president once again proved his opponents wrong. By reducing the rate of growth on the government’s spending from a gargantuan 8 percent a year to a lower and more acceptable rate of 4.9 percent, we as a nation will be able to enjoy the benefits of a tax cut and not have to suffer greater increases in our deficit. Bush proved his leadership in this area by also bringing moderate Democrats to the negotiating table so that a bipartisan agreement could be reached. The agreement leaves all Americans better off than when they were overtaxed and their government was spending too much. In addition to the tax cut, Congress is working on the president’s education reform package. Much like how the president negotiated his tax package, he is asking for help from members on the other side of the aisle, namely Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy. The legislation that will soon arrive on the president’s desk will include national testing for all students and flexibility for local districts as to how they spend their money. Both the testing and flexibility measures were proposed during the campaign by then- Gov. Bush and will soon become the law of the land. Both measures will allow for this great nation to leave “”no child behind”” and will allow for the American dream to become a reality for so many more students across this country. These first 100 days of Bush’s administration have been a stunning success. We as a nation, under the president’s leadership, have gained in prestige around the world. In addition, a new day has arrived in our nation’s capital. This Republican president has shown that he can and he will work with Democratic leaders to find common ground so that our nation will be better off. We are well underway in getting out from under the overbearing taxes that are assessed to all Americans. We are also well underway in giving our teachers, parents, and educators the tools they need to make our classrooms places of learning once again. All of this has occurred in a mere 100 days of the Bush presidency. It will be a wonder to see what is to come in the remaining 1,360 days. ...

Doing Time for Misdemeanor Crimes

On Tuesday, April 24, the Supreme Court upheld the strength of the Fourth Amendment by declaring that police may arrest individuals for minor traffic offenses or other misdemeanors, usually punished only by a fine. Affected infractions include unbuckled seat belts, jaywalking and public littering. Laura Chao Guardian The issue was raised when Gail Atwater, an upstanding Texan mother, was arrested for riding in her truck while neither she nor her two small children wore safety belts. At issue is the power and authority of police offers enforcing laws and the individual rights of those breaking them. While even the court admitted that Atwater probably should not have been arrested for her minor infraction, Justice David Souter declared that disallowing such police actions would “”turn many ordinary arrests into occasions for constitutional litigation.”” The Fourth Amendment is in place to allow police officers a framework to properly perform their duties, not to protect people who get arrested and don’t like it. Let us take as an example our responsible, upstanding Atwater, who decided that it was not necessary to buckle up her 3-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter. After her arrest, Atwater filed a lawsuit against the police officer that arrested her, the city and the police chief, alleging they had violated her constitutional rights. It has become clear that breaking the law is not something to be taken seriously, and that laws are simply in place to provide opportunities for frivolous lawsuits. We have a case of an irresponsible mother not looking after her children — even putting her children’s lives in danger — and now she is the victim? I must admit that the public outcry over this decision in favor of Atwater does not surprise me. The American Civil Liberties Union publicly announced that “”the Court has turned back the clock on three decades of civil rights enforcement.”” The current popular liberal consensus (what we are supposed to think) tells us that regardless of our actions, our civil liberties and rights must be upheld at all costs. In the end, what matters most is not justice, and it is certainly not the safety of those around us. Instead, the most self-serving and outright selfish route must be chosen. The well-being of Atwater’s children has been all but ignored as the rights of an irresponsible, law-breaking mother have taken center stage. Unfortunately, this type of incident is all too common, and it is high time the Court took action to prevent such lawsuits, as a seemingly obvious issue has been left out of the discussion: lawlessness. Laws are put in place by governments to protect its citizens and their personal property. Traffic laws such as seat belt requirements, jaywalking and other seemingly insignificant laws are in place to protect, not to inhibit. If the breaking of these laws is ignored, what then is the point of having the law in the first place? Just as police officers do not have the right to discriminate when making arrests, we as citizens do not have the right to pick and choose which infractions we get caught for. When we break laws, we voluntarily place ourselves at the mercy of the law enforcement authorities. Why, then, has it become so popular to seek rewards for stupidity and the blatant disregard for the very laws that protect us? While I place a great deal of blame on the legal system for tolerating such ridiculous lawsuits, that is a subject for another time. A more important point is the fact that this case even made it to court, and what that shows about our society as a whole. I see this as a painful example of overly opportunistic and self-interested people fueled by greed and getting their way because no one will stand up for those who choose to actually obey the law. What ever happened to consequences? What happened to taking responsibility for our actions and teaching our children that breaking the rules carries with it punishments, end of story? If asked what they have learned from their mother’s situation, it seems likely that Atwater’s children would respond, “”Mommy broke the rules, so she whined. And lots of people think it doesn’t matter that she broke the rules, just that she whines a lot.”” I don’t see this as a very positive example to set for children. Many of us were taught long ago that if you break the rules, you will get in trouble. Today, I see that this simple cause-and-effect relationship has lost its place in America. Instances such as the Atwater case, and others where the guilty have been hailed as heroes, prove that breaking laws is now a secondary offense to actually enforcing them. If we are to solve the criminal problems in this country, we must first reaffirm the principle that breaking laws carries a punishment. It may not always be the most convenient punishment, and it may not always be the nicest and the friendliest one. The simple answer is that if you get caught breaking a law, the rules do apply to you. By protecting police officers’ power to protect the innocent, the Supreme Court has not sacrificed civil liberties, but has instead acted for the well-being of many and not the benefit of one. ...

Trying Hard Convinces No One

Last Friday, I took a non-UCSD friend of mine to a party on campus. It was a rare occurrence (the on-campus party, not the friend), but it did take place. As I pointed out the people I knew and made various comments, my eyes settled on one particular person. I had seen her around several times throughout the year. I had even found myself in proximity to her a few times. I had witnessed an argument she had with another student over a trivial matter. All of these occurrences led me to one conclusion: The girl really annoys me. Now before you start bringing up the subject of the last article I wrote, about how girls are bitches, and before you start pointing fingers, let me explain why this person annoys me. She wears “”funky”” clothes. She dyes her hair a very unnatural shade. She sports a nose ring (and she’s not Indian). She is in the habit of rebelling against whatever system is at hand. On this particular night, she was dancing with some friends, flailing her arms wildly about, giving off an air that practically screamed, “”I will not be conventional! I am unique! I am an individual, hear me roar — no wait, too many people use that expression. I must come up with something different!”” People try too hard to be individuals these days. Obviously, no two people on this planet are alike. There is nothing wrong with being true to oneself. There is something wrong when one goes to great lengths to demonstrate it to the rest of the world. You know what I’m talking about. That guy, the one in your class who always raises his hand to make a counterpoint to whatever the professor has just said — what do you call him? Smart ass. He could talk to the professor after class, or go to office hours to discuss his opinion with the professor instead of wasting class time. So why doesn’t he? Because he wants to show off. OK, so maybe he is smart, but does anyone appreciate his intelligence? How about that geeky guy you knew in high school, the one who came home the summer after freshman year in college with a goatee? In high school he was considered a nerd, and now that he’s a “”man””, off to college, he can’t return home without showing some sign of change or maturity. The most obvious way to do this? Grow some facial hair. It’s the same idea with Rebel Girl and people like her. In the same way that Smart-Ass Guy and Goatee Guy don’t convince you of their intellect and maturity, respectively, Rebel Girl doesn’t convince me of her self-assurance. It’s not really about the clothes, the hair or the way she looks. (I guess some people genuinely think it’s attractive to have obviously dyed hair.) It’s more about the attitude. When I saw her going to extreme lengths to rebel — involved in an argument over a trivial matter concerning $5 — I realized that she was trying too hard to constantly go against the grain. And I am of the belief that people who try too hard are only trying to prove something to themselves. Anyone who is truly sure of himself does not feel the need to prove it to others. If Smart-Ass Guy were really secure in his intelligence, he would not need to broadcast it to the entire class. If Goatee Guy had really matured during his first year of college, he would realize that altering his physical appearance to impress people is actually very immature. While I’m sure that Rebel Girl is unique in her own weird way, she does a very poor job of proving her sincerity. Rebellion serves its purpose when directed against oppression and injustice. It becomes, however, paltry and pathetic when one uses it indiscriminately to prove a point. The bottom line is that people who try too hard don’t convince anyone — anyone intelligent, at least. While some people really are true to themselves by looking different or going against the grain, it’s really easy to tell which ones are genuine and which ones are just insecure and searching for an identity or a way to assert themselves. So as far as I’m concerned, Rebel Girl can pierce five more body parts or dye her hair a multitude of colors. I’m still not convinced that she is anything special. ...

Desperately Seeking Inspiration

Recently, I’ve had the urge to drown my sorrows in a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream. You see, even though I’m taking an eating disorders class here at UCSD and know that bingeing on a quart of ice cream isn’t a good solution to my problems, I’ve realized self-pity is a lot easier to swallow when it’s accompanied by several hundred pounds of calorie-laden chocolate. My hell began last week when I received an evaluation of an article I wrote earlier in the year from a judge for the mother of all college journalism contests, the California Intercollegiate Press Association Awards. At first, I could barely restrain my excitement as I anticipated the warm reactions of the panelists. I imagined them contacting The New York Times and begging them to put me on their payroll. I soon became delirious, envisioning the accolades I would receive from the literary world and my face — air-brushed of course — on boxes of Wheaties. However, my dreams of achieving international fame were quickly dashed when I discovered that not only did the judge not like me, she thought my writing was crap. I bit my nails nervously as I looked over my scores. On a scale of zero to ten, I received in the categories of writing quality, style, creativity, and reader appeal a 5, 2, 2, and a (drum roll please) zero. Zero? I couldn’t believe it! Surely, I thought, there must be one reader on a campus with thousands and thousands of people (probably even a hairy one who could identify with my deformity) who would find something appealing in my articles. The next few days were all a blur. I annoyed as many people as I could — some of whom didn’t respond to me — by asking them if they thought I was as bad a writer as the CIPA judge thought I was. I prayed that a higher power would somehow take pity on me and show me the way. If I was not destined to be a detective or a high-class journalist, what the hell was I going to do when I grew up? Sometimes my friends, burdened by my complaints and “”woe is me”” attitude, tried to get my mind back on track and would ask me what I planned on writing about for my next article. After a while, I finally decided that I was going to show that judge and everyone else, that I, Divya Runchal, would not only write an article that would be both thought-provoking and entertaining (quite a difficult feat for me), but one that was destined to be the high point of my short career. What was I thinking? You see, I thought that if I delved into an enigma that had captured my attention since freshmen year, I would be the biggest thing to hit this campus since Jamba Juice. Two words: Dynes’ Posse. I set out trying to investigate this group of renegades, eager to discover who they were and what they were trying to accomplish. I had spent countless moments scrutinizing the face of Chancellor Dynes plastered on stickers all over campus and trying to understand the cryptic message accompanying his image: “”Chancellor Dynes has a posse.”” I imagined various individuals running around campus in the middle of the night, evading lurking CSOs and a frustrated police department, spreading their message all the way from Center Hall to Warren Lecture Hall. I decided I would have to do a quasi-stake-out to unravel a mystery as interesting to me as the Bermuda Triangle. I even bought a special notebook, emblazoned with a Batman logo, to get my detective juices flowing. Yet, my “”stake-out”” turned into a disaster. Not only did I fail to see any fascinating activity while walking all over campus late at night (except for a couple of fat rabbits flopping around), but I also got a cold that put a swift end to my potential Pulitzer prize winning article. I finally came to the conclusion that I have three choices: 1. Quit writing for the paper and save my readers (if there are any) the grief of reading mediocre writing. 2. Become a nun and rise above my ego through prayer and benevolent acts. 3. Continue barraging readers with trash, even if everyone — CIPA included — hates it. After careful deliberation, I’ve come to the conclusion that choice number one will prevent me from earning enough money to supplement expensive hair removal treatments. Choice two, although lovely in theory, is impossible because there are too many cute boys on this campus that stray me from the path of God. Therefore, I’ve decided to continue writing even if the only “”fan”” letters I get are from critics. At least, if all else fails, there’s always Chunky Monkey. ...

Intolerance of Greek System Must End

Editor, As spring break came to an end, students were greeted back by signs denouncing the Greek populous at UCSD. Some students have taken to littering the campus with inflammatory paraphernalia with the words “”lame”” and “”geek”” written in pseudo-Greek letters purchased at the General Store. I find it ironic that a campus which takes offense to intolerance in the form of “”Anti-Zionism”” week and through protests supporting the repeal of affirmative action, can sit back and ignore the offensive messages and castigations of UCSD’s largest student organization. I question why this issue of intolerance has received no mention in the Guardian, or why the many accomplishments of the Greek system go unnoticed. Resentment toward Greeks has stemmed from allegations of elitism and intolerance. This is false and unjustified, with multiple Asian and Latino Greek organizations, a Jewish heritage fraternity, and a higher percentage of black members in the Greek system than in the student population. The Greek system is possibly the most culturally diverse group upon the UCSD campus. Greeks encompass all demographics of the student body and few students can attest to not knowing a member in the Greek system. Though the Greek system does throw parties, it also participates in numerous philanthropic events and excels in academics and campus life. Greeks have raised nearly $20,000 toward charity and donated tens of thousands of collective man-hours. Recently, Greeks sponsored the EXCEL leadership conference that drew student leaders from across Southern California, yet no mention of this conference with an attendance of 700 people was ever made in the Guardian. Greeks have consistently held significantly higher GPAs than the rest of campus, yet are regarded as buffoons. Greek parties play a significant role in the social atmosphere of a college that rarely has any event to rally at. It has become a given that students will receive numerous opportunities to meet new faces during the first week of each quarter. It is paradoxical though that when students are enjoying themselves at the expense of Greeks at “”frat”” parties that I never see shirts emblazoned with the “”Geek”” logo. The UCSD Greek system has played a significant role upon the campus since its inception. Though non-Greeks may not agree with the agenda certain fraternities or sororities may pursue, an insult towards the Greek system as an exclusive and intolerant institution is an exclusive and intolerant act itself. Those on campus supporting the intolerance toward Greeks are belittling fellow students based upon an identifiable trait. This form of intolerance is no different than that which we have seen many times over such as the anti-Semitism which led to the holocaust, and the anti-Catholic sentiments which embroiled this nation in the early 20th century. So, in response to the actions of the General Store and those members of the UCSD community who are supporting the overtly prejudiced views against Greeks, I encourage the campus community to boycott the General Store until the sales of their bigoted goods comes to an end. — Anupam Shome Inter-Fraternity Council VP Administration Member of Pi Kappa Alpha ...

A Profitable Future Seen in Space Tourism

They say money can’t buy everything, but apparently $20 million can buy you a seat on a Russian rocket to the International Space Station Alpha. Of course, California millionaire Dennis Tito needed a lot of determination to finish the nine-month preparation course in Russia, which included training on Russian space equipment and a wilderness survival course. Of course, NASA was against it from the start. It maintained that Tito would present a danger to the space station and that the space program is not ready for amateurs in space. How else is Russia going to get the money, though? It’s a poor country that loves its space program, quite the opposite of the United States. Here, we won’t give the space program the time of day. God forbid we should give them more than enough money to make a robot out of Popsicle sticks to send to Mars. I think NASA should take a tip from Russia and start sending up its own tourists. That way, it can’t bitch about the tourists not having enough training. Money does make the world go ’round, but it’s also needed to explore other worlds. What better way to get it than by selling backstage passes to the missions? Once the space program is able to generate enough income, private companies will begin to see a cash incentive to join in and present competition to the government. Right now, the space program is like the U.S. Postal Service — it’s a money pit that no corporation would be stupid enough to take over. But if we can make it pay, oh boy, will the corporations be lining up to get their piece of the pie. There’ll be competition in space again, just like back when the Russians actually had a smattering of money. That would be enough to jumpstart the improvement of the technology. That’s what we need. I mean, if there were only one company that made computers, it would have no reason to improve them all that much. We’d probably all have 386s right now, and we’d think they were super fast. We know all about the capitalism vs. communism debate. Communism is a wonderful idea; it’s very beautiful. But it’s stagnant. Without Sega, we’d all still be playing Nintendo games. Once people want something better, they have to make it themselves. But right now, not enough people in this country care about wanting something better for the space program. Yeah, lots of people do, but not enough. All we need to do is make corporations care about wanting something better so they can offer a better product (and therefore gain more money) than their competitors. One of the reasons so many inventions and technological improvements are made during wartime is that there is a very real, palpable sense of competition. Tito himself is interested in this area as a business venture when he returns to Earth. When the Russians were going to send Tito to Mir, nobody objected. NASA, though it of course had no say in the matter, did not admonish against it. But with Mir gone, Russia felt the need to honor Tito’s contract with its space program and transfer Tito to the International Space Station. According to Tito, NASA didn’t begin objecting until a few months before the actual launch was scheduled. But finally, just in the past week, NASA agreed to let Tito into the American part of the space station on a limited basis — sort of like, “”OK, we’ll let you in, just play nice.”” One of the benefits resulting from this flight is that it will open up the minds of the astronauts and the public to allow amateurs in their midst. Tito said, “”I think private citizens from all walks of life will be able to take the experience … and relate it back to the common person.”” Right now, if Russia gets their way, all private citizens from the rich walks of life will be able to go to space given their determination and aptitude in the training program. But maybe some day, hopefully some day soon, the corporations will take hold of this idea and allow people like you and me to save up a few thousand dollars and hop on a shuttle to a hotel just outside of the earth’s atmosphere and spend a weekend there. Maybe I’ve been reading too many science fiction books. I certainly hope not — we have the technology, or something close to it, right now. All we need is the drive, the passion, the greed to get us there. And when we have it, I’m going to be one of the first up there. I’ll bring my camera and take some pictures for you. ...

Prop 21 Unmasked: A War on Kids

Should children as young as 14 automatically be tried as adults for severe crimes, as mandated under Proposition 21? I was hit with this question when an advertisement in the Guardian caught my attention: Peaceful Anti-Proposition 21 Rally. The ad stated, “”A civilized society does not throw its most troubled children at age 14 to prison for life but tries to rehabilitate them by a juvenile justice system that is just and decent. Proposition 21 is under challenge and we need as many people to attend this rally, since it is critical in helping save Andy Williams, the suspect in the Santana High shootings, and other children like him.”” So the question I pose again is whether the automatic, mandatory filing of a violent child offender in adult court is the right thing for our society to be doing? At what point do we as a society throw in the towel and give up on our “”most troubled”” children? At what age do we draw the line? Under Proposition 21, the law is crystal clear: All youth over age 14 who commit violent crimes in California are required to be tried as adults, regardless of the divergent circumstances. This “”one size fits all”” law is the wrong solution to reaching our society’s goal of getting tougher on crime, for the cost — the sacrifice of our troubled children — is too high. Taking the decision of whether a child is to be tried as an adult out of a judge’s impartial hands and placing it instead into the conviction-minded prosecutor’s hands sets a dangerous precedent, and only time will tell us the true damage that has been inflicted on our youth. I do not see Proposition 21 as an attempt to become tougher on crime, but as an attempt to extract pure vengeance on our troubled children at whatever the cost. I can understand the frustration of having repeat offenses by children who weren’t reformed in the juvenile system, but does that condone making a law that serves to punish children indiscriminately without the varying degrees afforded to any person under our law? I do not believe those arguments of repeat juvenile offenders are sufficient grounds for the existence of Proposition 21. A strong supporter of Proposition 21, former Governor Pete Wilson made a statement in 1998 that is an indication of the vengeful spirit to punish child offenders: “”Because young offenders know they can laugh off the token punishment of our current juvenile justice system, they commit more — and increasingly brutal — crimes. We must make clear to the violent youthful offenders — the ones who just don’t want to be saved — that California will not tolerate their depravity. It will replace slaps on the wrist with the slapping on of handcuffs … and will impose adult time for adult crimes.”” I’d like to ask a question of the esteemed former governor: Who are the “”ones who just don’t want to be saved””? Better yet, who is to determine who is beyond saving if the age is set at 14 and the criterion is any violent crime? It is clear that Proposition 21 is a blanket law, in which the rights of children are completely erased. Just because a lighter sentence in juvenile court might lead to repeat offenders doesn’t mean that we have the right to treat children as adults. Following Wilson’s logic, only when children are bad or violent are they considered adults; otherwise, they are not afforded the same rights and privileges that come along with being an adult. So let me get this straight. When children are good and obedient to society’s laws, they are children; when they are bad and commit severe crimes they are adults? The logic doesn’t follow, Mr. Wilson. I believe Proposition 21 is a blatantly unfair and hypocritical law. It should be overturned before it is given the opportunity to exact its cruel and unusual punishment on our seriously troubled children. Unfortunately, Proposition 21 is already targeting its first casualty. The recent school shooting at Santana High School has given Proposition 21 its first test case: Andy Williams, a 15-year-old. Because of Proposition 21, Williams was automatically filed as an adult in adult court. There wasn’t a hearing for the judge to decide, based on the merits of the case, whether any mitigating circumstances would warrant him taken out of the juvenile courts and tried in adult court. Instead, Williams’ fate was left solely in the avenging hands of the prosecutors, and the fairness and equality guaranteed to all under our law was denied to him. It is clear to me that when California voters passed Proposition 21, they didn’t pass a bill tough on crime, they passed a bill that wages a bloodthirsty war on children: Lock them up and then throw away the key for life. But don’t we as a society have a moral obligation to at least attempt to reform these troubled children? The way I view it, since they are children when they commit their crimes, we must also bear a measure of responsibility for their actions and thus should do all in our power to create a suitable sentence that balances the need to punish with the need to rehabilitate. For when Williams or any other child turned to violence as his savior, that act can only be viewed as a desperate act — a cry for help. These children may have given up on society when they pulled the trigger, but that violent act doesn’t automatically preclude our duty to not give up on them unless all attempts at reform are exhausted. The ultimate question remains: What punishment is a child offender entitled to? Is the child entitled to automatic life enprisonment, or is the child entitled to the possibility of a second chance after rehabilitation? The decision is yours. Just be prepared to shoulder the consequences. ...

Editorial

Democracy is one of the most sought-after forms of government in the world. It is a system founded on the voice of the people. When those people do not use that voice, then the idea of democracy loses its foundation and the people relinquish their rights. Because of this simple yet essential value, the Guardian is very pleased with the large voter turnout regarding the Campus Life Fee Referendum election. A record 6,231 undergraduate, graduate and medical students voted last week, constituting approximately 33 percent of the school’s 18,600 students. While the Guardian is disappointed that the referendum did not pass, we are pleased that enough students turned out to have their voices heard and be counted. In the past, similar fee increases have received majority support from voters but failed to pass simply because voter turnout was not high enough. We cannot say enough about how important it is to vote, no matter which side one takes. Of course, the amazing turnout was no accident. Everywhere one looked, a reminder to vote could be seen, and the 12 voting booths set up by the Associated Students were impossible to miss. Only someone living in a cave would not have known about this election. Kudos to those who got the word out. Another reason why this election attracted so many voters is that it dealt with money, which means it directly affected all returning students. Apparently, a fee increase was important enough to a third of the students here. We hope this turnout is a beginning, not an end. We wish that more people would have voted, but not because of the promise of cheap beer or free cookies. Students should vote because they understand that it is a privilege to have their voices heard. Realistically, we would be happy with a continued increase in voter turnout. If 33 percent of the student body voted this year, why not 40 percent next time? Eventually, all 18,600 would vote. Now THAT would be a voice. We also wish students would turn out in these numbers to elect members of the A.S. Council. They too make a difference in campus life and are worth voting for. Once again, congratulations to the students at UCSD — those who voted and those who got the word out. Let’s continue the good work. The UCSD campus has long been considered apathetic, devoid of any political feeling whatsoever. Is this a turning point in the school’s attitude? We would like to think so, but we’ll have to wait to see if that is the case. ...