Opinion

The Results Are In: A.S. Council Members Receive Their Grades

Dear Littles and Germinates, Maybe you’re blind and haven’t noticed the omnipresent adverts for the A.S. elections. Maybe you’re brilliant and can actually tell the difference between the Unity and the One slates. Or maybe you’re in some typically collegiate state of inbetween confusion. In that case, this article is for you. What follows is a tip-of-the-iceberg examination of some of our departing A.S. officers. Last quarter I gave you the 1,000-word lowdown on soon-to-be ex-President Doc Khaleghi. Since I only have about 250 words each for the vice president external, the commissioner of communications, the commissioner of student advocacy and the commissioner of services and enterprises, I’m gonna go a lot easier on them. Sorry, Doc. Try to take it in stride. What follows is both a guide for how these folks did and a lesson in how to think about the new folks trying to get their jobs. Vice President External Eugene Mahmoud graded himself down for his work with fellow A.S. Council members. Mahmoud gave himself an unfairly low D-, thereby demonstrating exactly the kind of self-criticism and humility that marks a good official. The sad truth is that good candidates, with their flashy smiles and “”ain’t I great”” credentials, rarely have what it takes to do the job they so easily get. Mahmoud actually did look like a good candidate, despite being a last-minute entry when his good friend was disqualified, and he turned out to be a great official. The vice president external is charged to do exactly the kind of macro-advocacy that A.S. President Doc Khaleghi excelled at. Mahmoud focused on his own strengths, including an immense reserve of respect and affinity for traditionally marginalized groups. He set out to make his office a place of safety and accessibility in the labyrinthine third floor. He has accomplished this marvelously. Mahmoud has also had his share of striking accomplishments. He ran the best Students of Color Conference in years, with a record attendance and television coverage. He contributed to the 3,500 voters registered on campus for last November’s elections. His office, as he astutely pointed out, gives the A.S. Council credibility beyond simple funds distribution and student advocacy. Mahmoud graded himself as a B- average, taking credit for getting more people involved with the A.S. Council but noting his poor balance of time and energy with regards to his schoolwork. But his office has a history of borderline academic probation, and in context of this year’s council, he deserves an easy A. The grade earned by Rami Shaarawy, our commissioner of communications, was not so easy to determine. Like many of his predecessors, Shaarawy was drafted almost off the street to fill a slate and came into the job after a vote of no confidence in the Guardian, and with little grasp of the position’s responsibilities. For overcoming these challenges to the point that he (and we) can take his job seriously, Shaarawy gets an A for effort. For his actual fulfillment of the job, he does not deserve so high a grade. The commissioner of communications oversees alternative media publications such as The Koala, The Muir Quarterly, and Voz Fronteriza, to name the few that have actually published an issue or three in a noticeable way this year. Shaarawy approved a slew of new publications, few of which have actually gone to the presses. Shaarawy holds a job that has been waiting a long time for a brilliant and effective leader to transform it. It is still waiting. Shaarawy gets a B+ for outstripping his own potential, and a C for living up to the job. Call it a B-, and let’s move on. Of course, if a professor did that kind of fuzzy math with your grades, it wouldn’t fly. If you got into a fight over it, you might have to fly over to Commissioner of Judicial Affairs Amy Kuo. Mostly working behind closed doors, Kuo is hard to grade without having found a client of hers who wanted to breach confidentiality. We’ll let her represent herself. “”I deserve an A-/B+ grade,”” she said. “”I would have liked to have accomplished more, and I would have loved to make my office even more widely known.”” “”Seeing that I am a freshman to A.S., I think I did a pretty darn good job,”” she said. “”Between getting acquainted with the system and understanding my position without the aid of the previous student advocate, I learned the ropes on my own. I fought for students on various issues and had the opportunity to see them to victory in some of their cases. I am also one of the first in a long time to even produce some publicity and information to students.”” Finally, we examine Matt Conroy, commissioner of services and enterprises. Overseeing the co-ops, Volunteer Connection, A.S. Internship Office, Triton Taxi, U.S. grants, Student Cable Works, A.S. Lecture Notes, Soft Reserves, refrigerator rentals and our own dear, sweet Grove Caffe, Conroy would have had an overflowing plate if the internal leadership of all these groups hadn’t been so strong. It’s not tough to oversee people who know what they’re doing, but Conroy made it hard for himself. He took on the revamping of Triton Taxi, the re-negotiatiation of CalPIRG’s contract, the raising of lecture note takers’ pay and various improvements to the refrigerator rental service. Conroy gets an A for his all-around step-up-to-the-plate-and-try enthusiasm. He secures this A with a good sense of when to spend his time advocating a group and when to stay out of the way. You will be under a lot of pressure in the next few weeks to pick and choose according to nice words and nice clothes and pretty posters. Some of you will stay away from the polls because of those things, and some will just vote according to what that guy said who was talking to that girl two tables over. If you have any self-respect, get yourself out of both these categories. Meet the candidates and listen to what they have to say about their potential jobs. Are they informed hard workers, or slate-filling slackers? Ask them what they think about the people to whom I’ve just introduced you. And if they try to charm you, kick `em in the shins. ...

UJS's Decision to Pull Out of Forum is Disappointing

As a result of the recent controversy over Anti-Zionism Week, and in an attempt to educate the UCSD student body on this important issue, the A.S. external office recently made an avid effort to organize a forum in which four speakers — two representing the Palestinian side and two representing the Jewish side — would be invited to shed light on this topic. We, the members of the Arab Student Union, and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, strongly supported the event and were very excited about presenting our case to the public. This academic forum was to address the origins and the reasons of the conflict, the topics of which would include the historical aspect, matters relevant to human rights and international law, and prospects for the future. Unfortunately, we were saddened to see the Union of Jewish Students pull out their speakers, who were urged by the Jewish community at large to boycott the forum. Thus, the underlying question that I ask and attempt to answer is: What is there to hide? As the issue of Zionism has recently been responsible for stirring an emotional controversy on this campus, it is important that the legitimacy and validity of its claim be examined, with the hope that the reasons for our vehement opposition to this political ideology are wholly clarified. In 1919, at the Peace Conference in Paris, the Zionist Organization advanced its claim to Palestine, suggesting that the Allied Powers should “”recognize the historic title to Palestine and the right of the Jews to reconstitute in Palestine, their national home.”” This claim, as my study will prove, has no basis in fact or in law. From an historical viewpoint, the Zionist claim of a legitimate Jewish right to Palestine falls short for two reasons. First, the Jews are neither the original nor the longest continuous inhabitants of Palestine. Palestine’s earliest known inhabitants were the Canaanites, who are thought to have inhabited the country as early as 3000 B.C. In fact, the Jebusites, a Canaanite subgroup, built the city of Jerusalem over a thousand years before the Israelites first appeared on the land. Furthermore, the sum of all the periods of rule that Jewish groups had on this land, which adds up to no more than 300 years, is short relative to this region’s long history of over 5,000 years. Moreover, following the destruction of the Temple by Titus in A.D. 70, Jerusalem, as argued by Albert M. Hyamson, “”never again revived as a Jewish city,”” and the Jews, who were either killed or deported, almost ceased to exist in Palestine. Henry Cattan, in his book Palestine and International Law, states the following: “”Benjamin of Tudela, a Jewish pilgrim who visited the Holy Land in about A.D. 1170 to 1171, found only 1,440 Jews in all Palestine; and Nahman Gerondi, in A.D. 1267, found only two Jewish families in Jerusalem.”” On the other hand, the Palestinians of today are the continuous inhabitants of this land, beginning at the dawn of history, and did not come into Palestine with the Muslim Arab invasion, as is erroneously thought by many. Moshe Menuhin, in his book The Decadence of Judaism in Our Times, makes the following argument: “”The Palestinian Arab of today, then, is a descendant of the Philistines, the Canaanites and other early tribes … “” The second historical fallacy committed by the Zionists is their failure to distinguish between the Jews of today and the Hebrews of Biblical times. The majority of Jews today are converts of East European origin, coming mostly from the Khazar Empire of Eastern Europe. In his book The Thirteenth Tribe, Arthur Koestler argues that “”the large majority of surviving Jews in the world is of Eastern European — and thus perhaps mainly of Khazar origin …. Should this turn out to be the case, then the term ‘anti-Semitism’ would become void of meaning, based on a misapprehension shared both by the killers and their victims.”” These facts, however, were completely ignored when the British government decided to give its support to the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. This led to a policy of mass Jewish immigrations to Palestine, organized by political Zionists, in an attempt to change the demography of the land and justify their illegitimate creation of the state of Israel. Nevertheless, in 1947, the Jews only made up 25 percent of the population of Palestine and owned less than 7 percent of the land, when the United Nations partition proposal awarded them 54 percent of the country, including the best lands. In 1948, however, the Jews declared an independent state after seizing 78 percent of Palestine and driving out most of the Palestinian population through a process of violence, including some of the most gruesome massacres, such as that committed in Deir Yasin. Nineteen years later, in 1967, Israel expanded its borders as it occupied the regions of Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza, again causing the flight of Palestinian civilians, exacerbating the refugee problem. Since its creation, Israel has followed a consistent policy of land dispossession, house demolition and settlement building. In addition, its brutal occupation has included acts of murder, rape, torture and maiming of civilians. For this reason, although many find it hard to comprehend, the Palestinians find little pleasure living under Zionist occupation, and it is on these facts that we base our opposition to Zionism. Our position on this issue, along with our continued struggle for justice, is not based on hatred for anyone, but rather on love for our people, as well as our deep and genuine belief in human rights. In accordance with this position, we declare that the right to struggle is the right to advance, and thus, we shall never surrender this right to those who, on the one hand, preach to us about peace, and, on the other hand, prepare for war. ...

Gray Skies Ahead

He’s been talked up on the national scene, wooed by special interests and corporations, and achieved wild successes in fundraising — raising a stunning $37,000 per day since he took office in 1998, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Gov. Gray Davis, elected in an impressive victory three years ago, was widely hailed as just what the doctor ordered after former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson left office. Sky Frostenson Guardian However, since those optimistic days, the economic and political climate here in California has soured, and the downturn has taken Davis’ popularity in a tailspin with it. The challenges Davis now faces, in terms of education, leadership, and the ever-looming energy crisis, have shown his true colors. Despite his above-average public relations and fundraising, Davis has been revealed as no more than your average self-interested politician, with a below-average knack for managing our complex state. During Davis’ election campaign in 1998, he touted himself as a reform candidate, ready to step into the governor’s seat and address the myriad of problems that have always plagued California. A major element of his platform was education. Obviously, California’s public education system needs a shot in the arm: We lag near the bottom of national rankings for test scores and other barometers of student achievement. Davis has done nothing to address the underlying problems at work here. Instead, he has implemented a largely worthless and incredibly costly standardized testing system that wastes teachers’ and students’ class time. Instead of learning the fundamentals, they spend days reviewing test-taking techniques. With the University of California’s recent steps toward eliminating the SAT I requirement for admission, it is clear that the ability of standardized tests to accurately measure student achievement is limited at best and should only be considered in conjunction with a wide variety of other criteria. Davis’ claim that standardized tests will light the way toward a better educational future for California’s children is clearly flawed. Davis uses these tests to determine which schools should receive bonuses based on demonstrated improvement, meaning increasing test scores. However, while this may seem to be a good incentive to encourage schools to shape their kids up, this is clearly flawed. Such a program suggests that school administrators and teachers are somehow slacking off, and all they need is to have a monetary carrot dangled in front of them in order to mysteriously improve student achievement. This is insulting and certainly not the case. Schools whose students score poorly on standardized tests are not failing due to lazy faculty and staff, but due to lack of funding and the socioeconomic base of the surrounding neighborhoods. Giving funding to schools that perform well is an example of the backward thinking characteristic of Davis. The issue on most Californians’ minds currently, of course, is the energy crisis. Power service is sporadically interrupted, rates are skyrocketing, and blame is being placed on anyone and everyone. Clearly there are no easy solutions to be found. What is necessary to get on the right track, however, is an end to the politicking and finger-pointing, and mature, thoughtful leadership to guide us through the inevitably painful process of keeping the lights on. As governor, Davis would be the man to do this, one would think. Unfortunately, he has repeatedly shown himself to be unwilling to step forward and make necessary and necessarily unpopular decisions to secure long-term success. Instead, he relies on the whims of the energy-hungry California public. According to a March 26 editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Davis went so far as to claim that because public opinion polls showed that Californians didn’t feel Davis was to blame for the crisis, he must be doing a good job in solving it. This is obviously ridiculous; just because Davis didn’t start the fire, doesn’t mean he can avoid picking up a hose and getting himself soggy in the process of putting it out. The irony of this is that a March 30 poll commissioned by the Service Employees International Union shows that fewer than 30 percent of Californians would re-elect Davis if the race were held today. The reason? Davis’ manhandling of the energy crisis. Had Davis made less popular decisions when the crisis first reared its head last summer, had he adjusted rates and allowed long-term contracts between utilities and energy brokers and generators, rolling blackouts would today be nothing more than a distant, dreary threat and not an immediate and inconvenient reality. Also, much confusion and panic on the part of the public could have been avoided had Davis created an open rapport and communication about the crisis, clearly delineating his plans and how they would help hard-working Californians. By shirking his responsibility and providing no leadership, Davis has enflamed the energy crisis and provided no comfort or aid to us. California is a difficult state to manage, to be sure, especially when years of under-funding in schools have left our children ill-prepared for the challenging jobs of the future, and when Wilson’s de-regulation has spun horribly out of control. However, Davis’ inability to move beyond buzzwords, political fads, and public opinion polls has greatly hindered his ability to effectively govern California, and we are all the worse for it. ...

Shy Guys Do Not Need to Apply

My name is Josh. I’m a nice guy and I would like a date. You want stats? Fine. I’m tall (6 feet, 2 inches), in shape (only 170 pounds), smart (my IQ is between 140 and 160, depending on which test you believe), I drive an ’87 Honda Accord (before you laugh and stop reading, it has a $2,000 stereo system), and I like animals (I have three cats, a dog, a Chinese fighting fish and a goldfish). You wanna talk personality? We can do that too. Ask anyone that knows me and they’ll tell you that I’m genuinely nice, easy to talk to and have a knack for making people laugh. I also write poetry, act, sing and play a little guitar. Now you’re thinking that I’ve gotta be a loser with no aspirations (I’m not gay, so I must be a bum, right girls?). Gotcha there too. I’m a second-year political science major with a respectable GPA. I’m a prospective law school student. Eventually, I’m going to become filthy rich as a corporate lawyer so that I can retire early and spend time with my kids (yes, I even love children). So, the big question is, why can’t I get a date? I’m obviously approaching desperation, as I’m resorting to virtually advertising myself in the newspaper (I haven’t taken a personal out yet. That’s where I draw the line). There is a simple answer. Nothing serious or complex. I’m just shy. The sad truth is that it is nearly impossible for a shy guy to get a date in our society. Taking a brief glance through history shows that this is the absolute worst time for a shy guy to be single and looking for a date. Back in the days of the caveman, getting a date was simple. The first guy to club a girl and take her back to his cave was the recipient of a romantic evening for two. Brute strength soon gave way to unbridled capitalism as fathers began to pawn off their daughters to rich men in arranged marraiges. In this era, men needed only to be rich. Shyness was not taken into consideration. The Dark Ages were followed by a time when manners ruled the dating scene. Being proper was at the forefront in most people’s minds. For the most part, women didn’t figure into the dating equation until the date had begun. Men would approach the parents and respectfully ask to take their daughter out for the evening. The parents forced the daughter to go in order to avoid being rude. Again, as long as a guy was polite, he didn’t have to worry about being shy. In the not-so-distant past, women were treated more as objects. Especially in the early 1900s, men were seen as the masculine rulers of the social universe. Women were expected to be subserviant. As a result, any man who was strong-willed and assertive enough even to approach a girl would get a date because she was expected to accept. It is true that shy guys do have trouble approaching girls in the first place, but it’s a lot easier when you’re pretty much assured that the girl will say yes. This brings us to present day, the worst time to be a shy guy looking for a date. Now that women have become assertive and have earned the recognition that they are people as well, men have lost their edge. No longer can a guy simply club a girl over the head and try to drag her off. If he did, he’d either end up getting his ass kicked or thrown in jail. A guy also can’t simply try to bribe a girl’s father. She’d probably steal the money and disown her father before going out with a guy like that. Guys can also forget about respectfully asking the parents for the date and expecting the girl to agree. Believe it or not, girls can make their own decisions now and don’t necessarily want their parents picking out dates for them. What option does that leave the shy guy? Simply walk up to a girl and ask her out? That’s absurd! No human being should have to endure the excrutiating agony that is the few seconds between asking someone out and their reply. Personally, I can’t stand those moments. Don’t even get me started on dealing with rejection …. One might think that we have progressed into an era where women would start to approach men for dates. That does happen, but only about as often as Bill Clinton shags Hillary (you guessed it, almost never). The truth is that shy guys are stuck in a transitional limbo at the moment. We may soon be in the era where women do approach men for dates, but that is still in the future. I still don’t have a date. I’m still shy. I’m still not desperate enough to take out a personal ad in the paper (God knows that I’m getting close). I’m sure as hell not looking forward to waiting another five to 10 years for a woman to ask me out. I guess I might just have to bite the proverbial bullet and get some cajones. It may not be tomorrow. It may not be next week, but sooner or later, I’m gonna have to ask a woman out. God help me. He knows I need it. ...

Students Need to Broaden Horizons

All right all you smart-ass UCSD students, finals are over, and I have a pop quiz for you: 1. Where is the Eiffel Tower located? 2. What language is predominantly spoken in Australia? 3. Is homosexuality very common in Greece? 4. What language is spoken by the Taiwanese? 5. How is Brazil different from other South American countries? 6. What are the people of Denmark called? 7. What language is spoken in The Netherlands? 8. Name the countries that comprise Scandinavia. 9. In what country is Mount Kilimanjaro located? OK fine, in what continent? 10. Where is Ceylon? What is Ceylon? Who is Ceylon? Is Ceylon a person, place, or thing? The average American would not know the correct answers even to half these questions. But you, the brilliant UCSD student, you who graduated in the top 10 percent of your high school class, you who are poised for greatness — the kind of greatness that can only be measured by your stratospheric MCAT score and the kick-ass Beemer you will purchase once you finish medical school — you f—ing brilliant SOB, you … how many questions did you answer correctly? (Don’t worry, the answers are in the back of the book — in this case, the end of the column — because I would never dream of deviating from the familiar format of your calculus textbook.) This year I have the priviledge of living in UCSD’s International House. Never heard of it? Didn’t know we had one? It’s located in the Pepper Canyon apartments. It’s pretty cool; come check it out. In the course of my conversations with international students, I’ve come across some stories that have made me ashamed to call myself an American. A girl from London received the comment “”You must see the Eiffel Tower a lot.”” A Japanese girl was asked if Japan was part of China. After telling an American student that she was from The Netherlands, a Dutch student was asked, “”Oh, that’s near Amsterdam, right?”” An Australian girl was asked, not once but three times, if she came to the United States to learn English! Through my own travels I have come to realize that the rest of the world thinks Americans are morons. I’m starting to agree. To be fair, Americans are not inherently stupid; they’re only ignorant when it comes to matters that don’t pertain to their known universe — meaning the 50 states. What’s that? Dost thou protest? Those are the uneducated masses, you say? Surely UCSD students, the elite of the intellectual world, cannot be lumped into the same category of ignoramuses. Perhaps, but perhaps not. I used to be impressed with people who had a 1450 SAT score to their credit. But so what if you entered UCSD with enough AP transfer units to make you a sophomore? So what if you passed Math 20F with an A your freshman year? You’re a dime a dozen here at UCSD. You can tell me the answer to R = P/2L ln ro / ri, but can you tell me which country Greenland belongs to? It is not my intention to belittle the academic achievements of those who have worked hard in school. (Well, perhaps it is, but don’t take me too seriously.) Most of us who have made it thus far were raised in environments in which we were encouraged to study hard and to succeed academically. One may place the blame on our public school curriculum, which does not focus enough on geography and the cultures of other countries. One may point out that the rigors of attending UCSD leave us little time to explore the cultures and countries outside the United States. Alas, what is a culturally challenged UCSD student to do? My answer: Get your nose out of your O-chem textbook and head down to the International Center (it’s located on Library Walk, across from Center Hall). Look into going to study abroad. You can go abroad your sophomore, junior, or even your senior year. Many programs do not cost any more than what it costs to attend UCSD. Not all programs require that you speak another language. You don’t have to go for an entire year, though I believe you are cheating yourself if you stay any less than the full academic year. I spent my third year studying in Greece, and it was by far the best experience of my college career. Yes, this is my fifth (and last) year at UCSD. Yes, I would have graduated in four had I not gone (though it is possible to study abroad and still graduate in four). No, my major is not bioengineering or physics, it’s literature. “”Well there you go,”” you say, “”that’s why you can go abroad and I can’t. I can’t finish in four and still go to med school if I go abroad.”” Yes, I have an “”easy”” major (though you try reading the Odyssey in ancient Greek and tell me how easy you find it) and no, I’m not smart enough to get into med school. Guess I’ll just have to settle for law school instead. Shucky-darn. Stop being an ignorant American. Go abroad, broaden your horizons. No intelligent person has ever regretted it. And now for those answers. 1. The Eiffel Tower is located in Paris, France. 2. English is the predominant language of Australia. 3. Yes, Greece is full of flamers. No! What the hell is the matter with you? Homosexuality is no more common there than here or any place else in the world. That whole thing about Greek men all being gay is completely misconstrued. 4. The Taiwanese speak Mandarin or Taiwanese or Haka or … the list goes on. But the answer is not Thai. I am Taiwanese and you don’t know how many times I’ve been asked if I speak Thai. 5. Brazil differs from other South American countries in that their national language is Portuguese, not Spanish. 6. The people of Denmark are called Danes. 7. Dutch is spoken in The Netherlands. 8. Scandinavia is made up of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Finland is not part of Scandinavia though not even all Scandinavians are aware of this fact. But I swear it is so. 9. Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania, Africa. For all you Toto fans who knew this, I salute you. 10. Ceylon is the island country now known as Sri Lanka. It is also a type of tea (obviously from Sri Lanka). Bonus Question: Greenland belongs to Denmark. ...

Women's Suffrage

My fellow Americans, a great injustice has taken place in our nation’s great and treasured history. Somewhere along the lines of time, men were fooled into giving women the right to vote. Regardless of how it happened, the ugly truth is that it did. What we must now do is move to correct this horrible problem before it gets worse. All you fine people need to do is give me the A-OK and a cool million dollars in small, unmarked bills, and I will gladly put this horrible occurence behind us. I have some of the best spin doctors and public relations people that have ever lived. Give us a month and I can guarantee that nobody will remember that women ever had the right to vote. Hell, women will be willingly giving up this undue burden on their pretty little minds. I know what you men are thinking. You think that if you support this righteous movement that your women-folk will resent you and you will be denied the luscious booty that we all covet so highly. I have no doubt in my mind that this is how women convinced us to give them the right to vote in the first place. We must now band together as a nation and be strong. We cannot give in again. My fellow men, I feel your pain in the loss of sex, but trust me, it will not last long. If we act swiftly and efficiently, you will be tappin’ the sweet booty before you know it. Just think about what it was like before women could vote. They were subserviant to us and would give up the booty whenever we wanted it. They even cooked and cleaned. It was nice. It was very, very nice. Think about the horror that has happened since women got the right to vote. We banned pot, got into some really big wars, people got AIDS and then we elected George “”Dubya.”” Yes, women’s suffrage is truly an ugly bruise on our nation’s great history. In closing, my fellow American men (the true Americans), we must band together and fight the evil women. They may hold sex over our heads, but we must stay strong. I have felt your pain, my brothers, but I have also seen the light. The light that I have seen is one that will illuminate and outshine this dark era of our history that was a woman’s right to vote. ...

Technology is No Substitute for the Real World

You may be reading this as you wait for class to begin. Or you could be reading this on a computer screen at 2 a.m. It’s the same story, but the settings are of two very different worlds. If you are reading this in our print edition, you are probably surrounded by other students who are reading the same paper. Maybe they’re reading this article too. If you’re reading this online, you are probably alone in your room. Maybe you’re listening to music. Others might be reading this article at the same time, but you have no way of knowing it. The new millennium almost seems like a letdown. It’s 2001 and the only space odyssey around involves the Russians and their self-destructing Mir. No one flies around in “”Jetsonmobiles,”” either. Reality bites, doesn’t it? Reality bites, but soon we may not have to deal with it. Soon, we will be able to spend our lives in a digitally created world. Despite the decline of the tech market, 2001 is significant because it will go down in history as the true beginning of the Digital Age. It will be the end of traditional socializing and community, and the beginning of virtual reality as a substitute for the real thing. It’s the reality of life in 21st-century America. Our “”society”” is moving toward total privacy. This worries me. Almost daily, I see someone on Library Walk who appears to be talking to himself. He isn’t crazy; he’s talking on an almost-invisible phone. He is “”connected,”” and yet he is disconnected from the world around him. Like each previous technological revolution, the Digital Age has quietly engulfed us. We didn’t ask for this deluge of information and electronic devices, but it evolved over time and we evolved with it. I am part of the last generation of Americans to grow up without a personal Internet connection. During my junior year of high school, I finally got “”connected,”” but children now are on the computer long before they’re in kindergarten. This worries me. Children in the United States don’t know any other way of life. As far as they’re concerned, the Internet is as remarkable as a peanut butter sandwich. This also worries me. The Internet is often hailed as a breakthrough in communication, but that’s not necessarily positive. There is nothing so great about talking to people across the world when it means that you no longer talk to your next-door neighbors. Traditional community is on the way out. The rise of suburbia was the first strike against it. In many cases, neighbors now are not friends but simply other people dwelling in their own private world, one door down from yours. You don’t hear “”there goes the neighborhood”” very often anymore, because it packed up and left a very long time ago. Rising political apathy in America is not surprising. As our world becomes increasingly private, public issues mean less. Most people don’t care about the government unless it wants to increase taxes or dump toxic waste on their front lawns. Only then are politics worth dealing with. One of the special qualities of computers is that they allow us to turn our private world on and off whenever we please. Problems need not exist in cyberspace. If an argument is brewing between you and another Internet user, you can simply log off. You never have to deal with another person’s feelings if you don’t want to. That you may have never seen this person’s face makes it even easier to do just that. The human mind doesn’t just like simulated situations; it comes to prefer them. In an age of unlimited possibilities in the virtual world, reality is no longer a priority. Virtual reality makes the impossible possible, as long as it doesn’t mean dealing with real problems. Virtual reality can’t end poverty and it can’t end hunger, but it can blanket us in the feeling that these problems don’t exist. Virtual reality can’t make death painless, but it can numb us to the feelings associated with it. Again, this worries me. Millions of video games can simulate killing another creature, but no video game forces you to deal with the real-life consequences of taking a life. In the virtual world, there are only simulated consequences. The reset button takes care of everything. For a lot of people, this is the perfect existence. For now, virtual reality is limited to video games and the Internet, but change is coming. Any experience will be able to be reproduced. Technology will evolve past simulating reality and on to simulating experiences that are better than the real thing. The line between the virtual and real world is blurring. I worry about what virtual existence means for the future of the real world. Will the real world become a massive inner city to the suburbs of hyper-reality? If we cross over to a predominantly digital existence, are any of us going to want to come back to the real world? The evolving Digital Age keeps barreling ahead, with little regard for what it leaves in its wake. Before we decide to plug in any further, I urge us to take a look at the reality we are leaving behind. It is imperfect, to be sure, but that is the way life was intended. As a society, we should think about hitting the reset button before it is too late. ...

Taking for Granted the Freedoms Denied to Others

I can’t help but wonder if we as a society take our lives and the freedoms we enjoy every day for granted. Do we even fully realize the phenomenal freedoms that we exercise every waking minute? I submit that it isn’t an issue we spend much time probing because we have become accustomed to the absolute freedom to control our lives; because of the fact that we have the freedom of protected liberty, and possess the freedom to pursue our happiness in whatever we choose. Despite all the bad things that we read about in our papers every day, we actually do have a wonderful life. However, not everyone in this great big world is as lucky as Americans are. Imagine, if you will, that you or a close friend has just been brutally raped. Now banish from your mind the immediate available medical, victim, legal and psychological services that are available in the United States. Next, banish from your mind the fact that the law enforcement agencies in the United States will go after the rapist, who, if caught, will then face legal punishments. Now imagine that once it becomes known you or your close friend has been raped, the law pursues the victim. Imagine you, the victim, is then killed for shaming your family’s honor. A woman is raped, then is killed; what could possibly be the rationale behind this abhorrent and chilling action? In many Middle Eastern countries, “”honor killing”” is the age-old practice of killing women who have shamed the family name by committing adultery, not marrying the bridegroom chosen by her parents, having premarital sex and even for being raped. Even the merest suspicion of sexual activity can warrant a woman’s death in the name of “”family honor.”” The worst of it is that the killings often remain a private family matter and usually the murderer is considered innocent and even a “”hero,”” often allowed to walk free without any punishment. The first thought you might have is that this obviously cannot be true — that it must be an ancient custom that is no longer in practice. Sadly, this practice is very much a reality. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in its annual report on the state of human rights in their country, it was reported that around 1,000 women were victims of “”honor killings”” in 1999. In the August 1999 report, the Human Rights Watch condemned the “”honor killings”” that take place in Jordan. This international monitoring group cited the killing of 11 women 1999 (through August), in the name of “”family honor,”” and criticized Jordan’s government for allowing the perpetrators to go free. Yet “”honor killings”” are not limited to Middle Eastern countries. They also continue in Turkey, considered a Mediterranean European country. The Middle East Times International Edition reported on April 27, 1998, a teenager’s throat was slit in the town square of the region of Sanliurfa because a love ballad was dedicated to her over the radio. Though “”honor killings”” are a crime under Turkish law, this girl was punished according to a tradition, which decrees that a family tarnished by an unchaste daughter can redeem its honor only by her death. Now imagine that you are married, but have taken a lover. Imagine you have just been convicted of adultery. If you are a woman in Afghanistan or Iran, there is no doubting what your punishment will be: death by stoning. As reported by the Associated Press wire service May 1, 2000, a recent example of this practice was when Afghanistan’s hard-line Taliban religious leaders stoned a woman named Suriya to death after she was convicted of adultery. The stoning was conducted in a dramatic public display at a sports stadium before a crowd of several thousand spectators. In Iran, the Law of Hodoud specifically states how a stoning must take place. Married offenders who commit adultery may be punished by stoning regardless of their gender, but the method laid down for a man involves his burial up to his waist, and for a woman up to her neck (Article 102). Article 104 of the Law of Hodoud provides that the stones should not be so large that a person dies after being hit with two of them, nor so small as to be defined as pebbles, but must cause severe injury. This makes it clear that the purpose of stoning is to inflict grievous pain on the victim, in a process leading to his or her slow death. Though the Iranian law requires stoning death for either male or female offenders, the majority of the cases involving stonings involve women. Amnesty International reported July 14, 1995, that two women by the names Saba Abdali, 30, and Zeinab Heidary, 38, were stoned in the city of Ilam Gharb of Iran after being accused of committing adultery. In another horrifying case, Reuters reported Dec. 7, 1994, that a married woman was stoned to death in the city of Ramhormouz, in southwestern Iran. These brutal cases illustrate the fact that the women in these countries do not have the rights to life, to liberty, or to pursue their happiness — the very rights we take for granted in the course of our daily life. It is simply beyond my capacity to be able to imagine how it would be possible to live in a country in which I would be killed by my own family members if I were raped or fell in love with the wrong boy. These harsh and inherently unjust actions by these countries only serve to reinforce my belief in how lucky I am to be living in the “”grand ol'”” United States. It makes me aware that every day I truly do breathe in the air of freedom. Our constitutional gifts of freedom protect us from each other and from our government. In our remarkable society, victims have the rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, and above all, are protected from further victimization. Thus, with each day, remember that we have been blessed with a exceptionally wonderful life. For we enjoy something many other countries only dream about: freedom. ...

Media Loses Sight of Fair Reporting

A fast-paced frenzy that lasts, uninterrupted, for days — and then, quiet. In the hours that followed last week’s shooting at Santana High School in Santee, local and then national news channels broadcasted live, gripping footage. Soon the airwaves were abuzz with experts offering analysis and pundits tossing out opinions. Once again, as we have seen before in incidences of school shootings, accusations flew. Fears were voiced. A call to arms was issued. It seemed all at once as if the entire American population had devoted its energy to this pressing societal problem. And then, all at once, silence descended. Americans looked away from Santana and returned to their daily lives, where, God willing, school shootings were not an immediate concern. This is the cycle that has repeated itself through all of the recent school shootings: a flurry of exploitative, repetitive “”coverage”” of the incident, and then its rapid relegation to back-page follow-ups and our distant memory. Yet the media’s treatment of this issue has a long-lasting effect on us, whether we acknowledge that or not, and that effect is for the worse. Anyone who flicked on the television on the morning or afternoon of March 5 was assaulted by images of Santee, and the tour guides through the disorganized crowds and confusing information were the newscasters “”live on the scene.”” Yet these journalists were less interested in presenting a well-informed picture of the events at hand than in edging out their broadcast competition by providing the rawest, most attention-getting footage. One local reporter approached a woman who was sobbing uncontrollably, searching the faces of the teens that passed by, probably for her own child; he promptly thrust his microphone in her face and said, “”Excuse me, ma’am, I see that tears are streaming down your face … could you tell me what you’re feeling right now?”” The motivation was clear: He was pursuing the juiciest quote possible for the 6 o’clock news, and in an insensitive, intruding manner. There is a standard guideline in journalism: “”If it bleeds, it leads.”” In the wake of violent and affecting school shootings, reporters exploit the suffering of the victims and their distraught families for ratings. The media figureheads are also guilty of clouding the issue of the causes of school shootings. The wild and contradictory speculation of pundits and so-called “”experts”” serves no purpose but to confirm the preconceived beliefs of viewers and readers, and it can even give them mistaken impressions of the conditions surrounding an incident. In his March 6 column in the Union-Tribune, Peter Rowe assigned racial motivations to the Santana shooting, citing a recent study about racism in Santee (which is unflatteringly called “”Klantee”” by its detractors). However, there is no evidence whatsoever that Andy Williams, the Santana shooter, chose his victims based on their race or ethnicity, or that he indeed exercised anything other than a random selection of convenient targets. By furthering an explanation that has no basis in fact, writers and commentors only muddy the waters and make any genuine investigation and exploration impossible. Perhaps the most tragic and sinister repercussion of the media’s exploitative and haphazard coverage of school shootings, such as that at Santana High, is the propagation of copycat crimes. Media outlets romanticize the killers in these cases, running in-depth biographies on them and making them household names. (Who didn’t know the life stories of Columbine shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris last year?) This obsession with teens who were formerly on the fringe of their narrow school societies is enough to cause other alienated youths to idolize the murderers. Indeed, a Maryland 18-year-old was arrested last week for sending threatening e-mails to two girls from Santee, boasting that he was “”finishing what Andy started.”” Authorities could find no personal link between the sender and Williams — in short, the only way he knew of the case was through what he read in the newspapers and saw on television. This illustrates a frightening trend wherein violence inspires violence. The media’s focus on and glorification of the shooters in cases such as Columbine and Santana causes such a cycle. Obviously, it would be ridiculous to blame atrocious acts such as school shootings on the media alone (or on music with explicit lyrics, or video games with stylized violence, for that matter). However, reporters and commentors are irresponsibly and unethically addressing these events. While some would argue that reporters are merely responding to the public’s desire, this justification makes journalism out to be a product for the consumption of the masses, and not the responsible watchdog it should be. So now that the last student memorial service has ended, and the pundits have spoken their pieces and received their paychecks, the media circus has packed up its tents and left San Diego county to its own devices. We are left dazed, unsure of how to proceed; we are jaded and cynical in the face of another all-too-familiar attack; we are worried; we are forgetting as we speak. The media has abandoned its obligation to inform us, choosing instead to entertain us with suffering and woo us with empty explanations. And now they do nothing, and we are right back to the state in which we started — silence. ...

Stapling Condoms To Discourage Sex: Logic Full of Holes

In Monday’s issue of the Guardian, a news story was written about a group of Visual Arts 2 students who passed out condoms punctured with staples on Library Walk last Wednesday. The group apparently got the condoms from Student Health Services and used the stapled condoms to make a statement about the risks that people make when they have sex while using a condom. Although the Guardian believes in the right of free speech, we also think that the actions that this group took to make its point were both ill-advised and shameful. First of all, the group used condoms that were handed out by Student Health Services in an attempt to lower the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases and the instances of conception. It was not appropriate for condoms that are paid for with student fees to be destroyed so that a small group of students could have their opinion heard. Just as it wouldn’t be OK for the group to write out their argument on the walls of a lecture hall in spray paint, it is not acceptable for them to destroy materials bought for the good of the university. This display was not an approved expenditure of those funds and should not have occured. Secondly, there is now an unknown quantity of condoms on campus that cannot prevent pregnancy or the transmission of a disease. The statement that this group was trying to make is not lost on the members of the Guardian editorial board, and while nobody would doubt that abstinence is much safer then protected sex, the damage done by this group was much greater than any good they may have caused. Although most people understand that condoms with staples in them are unusable, some people may not. This presents an obvious danger. Also, if the staples are pulled out of the condoms, it would be almost impossible to see the small holes that the punctures would leave. If not properly disposed of, these condoms could easily be mistaken for unpunctured condoms, and used as such. Further, by the time students reach college everybody understands the risks involved with sex, both protected and not. This art project really did nothing to increase the consciousness of the public about the problems associated with sexual promiscuity. Their actions could have serious consequences for students that are fooled by the punctured condoms. This “”art”” project was an exercise that should never have taken place, and could cause considerable damage to individual lives. ...