Opinion

Handcuffs and Pornography: 'Cops'

I don’t watch TV very often but, like everybody else, I am occasionally guilty of zapping. During my zapping sessions, I happen to stumble upon an inordinate number of shows based on the pursuit, arrest, trial and conviction of people guilty of this or that crime. I am not talking about the classic detective story, which (if it is a good one) has a well designed plot and in which, all in all, crime and punishment are secondary concepts. Think about a classic Agatha Christie detective story in which, once the murderer has been discovered, his destiny is never revealed. The murderer is interesting only as an intelligent adversary to be defeated using the rules set forth by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: An investigation is essentially a chess game without moral undertones. No: I am talking about shows with titles like “”Cops,”” “”Arrest and Trial,”” and so on, in which the arrest and punishment of the perpetrator is the only (or, at least, the main) topic of interest. You must have seen them, since they are almost everywhere. The networks are creating a new one every other Tuesday, cable channels love them, and even a supposedly sober station like the Discovery Channel managed, somehow, to put a show evocatively called “”The Prosecutors”” on the air — with the only justification, as far as I can see, that the crime has indeed to be “”discovered”” before the perpetrators can be captured. When I first noticed these shows, I went through a lot of my considerable supply of amazement. I found it rather hard to understand why any sane person would take the trouble of sitting through programs that, I feel quite confident to claim, are impressively dull. Most of these shows are based on real life, which makes them unavoidably boring, since life imitates art only very imperfectly. A few of them are fictional but equally unpalatable since, in their case, art imitates very imperfectly that part of life that imitates art very imperfectly. I finally came to a conclusion that explains quite satisfactorily the exorbitant number of such shows: They are part of a strong and burgeoning wave of conservative pornography. Some people might find this statement surprising and, possibly, think that, finally, senility got the best of me, since they are used to considering pornography as something related to the explicit and graphic depiction of sexual intercourse. In reality, pornography has very little to do with sex: What you know as pornography is simply the sad spectacle of frustrated male fantasies vicariously satisfied. From this point of view, “”trial flicks”” fit the pornographic profile quite splendidly. They provide a fictional satisfaction to the frustrated conservative fantasies of a world in which the police are always infallible, gentle with the kids (except black kids, of course) and tough with the crooks, which are invariably nasty, ugly, stupid and will be inevitably hit by swift, hard and — above all — vengeful justice. Cop and trial shows satisfy these fantasies much in the same way that sexually explicit shows provide a fictional satisfaction to the male fantasy of having all women in the world available and constantly ready for immediate, casual sex. In this, as in other cases, one should make a distinction between pornography and erotism. Erotism is a subtle play whose subject is sex, but which requires a careful pacing and a delicate balance between explicitness and ambiguity, between seeing and guessing. While erotism requires a certain degree of frustration or, at least, postponement of sexual fantasies, pornography is always absolutely explicit, and the interludes between sexual actions are mere fillers (two hours of uninterrupted sexual action would be intolerably boring). In pornography, the sex is always independent of a context, while in erotism the context is an important component of sexual excitement. This distinction is important to understand why trial shows are conservative pornography rather than conservative erotism: They share with pornography the trivial explicitness and disregard for context. It is not essential to know why a person committed a certain crime, what is the background on which the crime took place, or other details like these; all that matters is that a guy committed some kind of crime and now he is being chased, stopped, detained, tried and convicted (there are no innocents unjustly accused on TV’s trial shows: Much like a chaste virgin in a sex film, they would only spoil the fun). Just like in sexual pornography, all the phases must be explicit and depicted in every detail. Conservative pornography and sexual fantasies do not have, however, the same moral status. As tasteless as it may be, sexual pornography is based on sex, which is a thoroughly enjoyable and healthy activity. It is true that pornography is very demeaning to women but, within the male fantasy that generated pornography, women are supposed to enjoy casual sex as much as men do. I would say that, while the execution of the fantasy is demeaning, the fantasy itself is just a misdirected desire of mutual satisfaction that is, of egalitarianism, albeit egalitarianism seen from one side only. Conservative pornography, on the other hand, is based on the desire (no — the lust) of putting people behind bars. This is very different from the rational realization (which we all share) that some people, under certain circumstances, should be put in jail. Lust for incarceration is a thinly disguised lust for power and therefore much more immoral than the sexual fantasies on which sexual pornography is based. I will leave the reader with a question. Parents have the technical and legal tools at their disposal to prevent their minor children from watching pornography (quite rightly so), or even good erotic films (a little less rightly so). Why, then, don’t they have the same tools to prevent their children from watching conservative pornography? Send your answer to the editor; the best one will receive a copy of “”John Ashcroft does Dallas.”” ...

Church v. School

Less than a year after the Supreme Court ruled prayer before high school football games unconstitutional, the court is again looking at religion and public schools. James Pascual Guardian The question on Feb. 28 was whether religious groups, in this case the Good News Club, a national Christian organization for kids, should be allowed to meet on public school property. Milford Central School in New York prevented the group from meeting on school grounds after school, stating “”It’s Sunday school on Tuesday. We can’t have that.”” The issue at hand is twofold, as it raises the question of free speech versus the separation of church and state. It is important to note that allowing a group to meet in a classroom is different from endorsing or promoting all of that group’s views. It is unlikely that the educational system agrees with the view the Boy Scouts of America have concerning gays, yet the Boy Scouts continues to meet at public schools throughout the country. Instead, by allowing the Boy Scouts and other groups to meet in classrooms, schools send the message that for those students who wish to attend the meetings, there can be some moralistic value found in such organizations. Students need their parents’ permission to attend a Good News Club meeting. This requirement acts as a safeguard against students having unwanted information pushed on them. The Good News Club does not recruit in Milford; it is simply seeking a convenient place to hold its meetings. Accodrng to an article from MSNBC, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer stated that by preventing the group from meeting at school, the district superintendent is “”discriminating in free speech terms against religion.”” Discrimination is something that reputable groups and individuals use to deal with views or ideas that oppose their own. Milford may try to mask this discrimination with umbrella terms such as “”protection”” or “”equality,”” but at the crux of the matter, this is a simple case of a school trying to suppress views to which it does not want its students exposed. Schools should encourage students to seek out many points of view instead of suppressing exposure to new ideas. Supreme Court justices must also struggle over what constitutes worship. Law prohibits school-sponsored religious worship of any kind. It also protects students who wish to worship, but requires that worship does not disrupt others or interfere with school activities. The age of children involved must be considered. Stories and songs may be considered worship when college students or even high school kids are involved, but does a 6-year-old have the capacity to worship in the spiritual sense of the word? They hear a story about someone helping someone else and sing a song to remember it. The hope is that children will remember the story well enough so that when faced with a situation in which they can either be thoughtful or cruel, the right choice is made. In light of what has happened recently in Santee, Calif. and in other areas in the country, we should not be keeping such lessons from our children. Schools should actively support any group that tries to teach young people the difference between right and wrong. The largest issue in this case is deciding which takes precedence — free speech or the separation of church and state. Both are protected by the Constitution, but one cannot be used against the other. Instead, in all instances where the two conflict, a solution that upholds the principles of free speech while maintaining the important distinction between the government and religion. If the school prevents the group from meeting, it violates the protection of free speech. Any prevention of the meeting would be solely based on the views of the group and is discrimination based on a set of beliefs. The court must allow the Good News Club to meet, and any other religious group that wishes to meet. The school would be upholding the First Amendment while maintaining the separation of church and state. Allowing any and all groups to meet shows no preference or support for a particular religion. The Good News Club group meets after school ends, so it does not interfere with any school activity, and it simply teaches students the moral values that Christianity holds. Allowing religious groups to meet after school does not violate the Constitution and in fact promotes positive moral instruction. Unfortunately, throughout the debates over religion in public schools, principle has superseded reality. The reality here is that a small group wants to teach young students how to be kind to each other. It teaches them about selflessness and generosity, and it happens to do it with Christianity at its core. Only those interested will attend the meetings, as those who do not agree or do not care are not affected in any way. It is sad that such a simple yet important service to our children must be inconvenienced as a result of legal maneuvering and political and social activism. These religious groups do not aim to hurt anyone, and the fact that their values are anchored in faith is no reason to exclude them from one of the most important and essential doctrines of freedom. These groups should be allowed to meet at public schools and teach our children that there is virtue in kindness. ...

Article Against Bush is Unfair

Editor, I strongly disapprove of the Guardian’s perpetual diatribes on President Bush. The most recent assault was in a March 5 article titled “”In the Wise Words of President Bush.”” If you are going to present criticisms of the president, why not do it in a constructive manner? It seems that since you are unable to come across any imperfections in his policies and leadership, you ridicule his inability to articulate himself. The effects that these so-called “”Bushisms”” have on our country are not as dramatic as liberals make them out to be. A man who has trouble articulating himself can still carry out his duties effectively. How nervous would you be speaking in front of the free world? Possessing flawless articulation abilities is not one of the most significant qualities for a leader. One excellent demonstration of this fact can be seen in the governor of California. He is able to, while monotonously, articulate himself better than our president. Yet his policies reflect no real understanding of how to govern. His energy plan created an energy crisis, and the only solution he has is for government to step in and control the marketplace. Excuse me Mr. Governor, but isn’t government what got us here in the first place? Another state in our union, Texas, deregulated successfully. This was done under the governorship of George W. Bush. On a sidenote, the writer of this article also makes reference to the supposed clause in the Constitution defining a separation of church and state. The left loves to perpetuate this lie any time a conservative proposes anything merely suggestive of a relationship between the church and the state. If you actually took the time to read the Constitution, you would realize that it is not there. (This idea of the separation of church and state actually came from an 1802 letter from Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association, but is NOT in the Constitution). Do the conservatives on our campus need to write a letter to the editor every week citing Bush’s many accomplishments? Being the first President with an MBA, graduating from Harvard and Yale, and serving as Governor of Texas are all proof that he is intelligent. A more warranted assault would be on our governor and his failing power policies, but liberals have shown us in the past and continue to show us now that they stand by their “”leaders”” no matter how immoral (Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy) or incapable (Gray Davis). — Lucas Simmons Vice Chairman, College Republicans at UCSD ...

College Community Service Should Be a Requirement

By the time you graduate from UCSD, how long will you have been in school? If you’re an undergraduate and you’ve slavishly adhered to your college’s “”Finish in Four”” playbook, then the answer is 17 years. The rest of us — graduate students, and those in favor of a more relaxed approach to higher education — will have served longer terms. Now imagine that glorious day when your studies are completed: You will emerge into the community, prepared for anything. Or will you? The truth is, many college graduates discover that they are ill-equipped to cope with the transition from academia to the “”real-world.”” They lack applicable job skills, confidence in themselves and a sense of connection to their community. The best solution is to ensure that college students get real world experience and learn about the surrounding community: One year of community service should be required for all college students. A lack of community involvement has long been a problem in the United States, a problem that is easily eliminated. There are many ills that need immediate attention and for which there are pathetically few resources. The issue of homelessness is an obvious example. San Diego has a staggering homeless population and a dearth of resources. There are not enough shelters to house these people, not enough cooks to feed them and not enough tutors to help them gain skills necessary to get jobs and enter the work force. However few they may be, volunteers work every day to aid this population; increasing the volunteer work force would naturally increase the amount of help available and the quality of life for all residents. Another example is the availability of health care for low-income individuals and families. Free and reduced-fee clinics are in high demand, but waits are long and service cursory at best, because the clinics are understaffed. A medical degree isn’t necessary to help in a clinic — Planned Parenthood needs receptionists and clerks as well as doctors and nurses. Flooding the country with young, intelligent volunteers will address the shortage of workers in such community service organizations and improve life for all of us. Community service benefits those who receive it as much as those who give it. A major benefit is job experience. Volunteering is much like employment of any other sort: It entails regular hours, answering to a supervisor, completing necessary tasks and cooperating with others. Volunteering at a women’s shelter provides more useful work experience than flipping greasy burgers and soaking potato strips in animal fat. Revelle junior Nick Parziale is co-director of UCSD’s Eyes on the Elderly program, in which students make regular trips to the Torrey Pines Convalescent Home to interact with seniors who may have little contact with their family. Parziale explained that his experiences with Eyes on the Elderly have taught him “”interpersonal and leadership skills”” and have given him a satisfaction in his accomplishments that translates into confidence. Clearly, community service opportunities offer students valuable tools for success in the work world. Perhaps less tangible yet infinitely more significant than gaining a foothold in the job market is the exposure to other cultures that volunteering provides. Racial diversity on college campuses has been the source of much controversy in recent years; however, few question the value of being exposed to a diverse environment. This can be achieved through means other than the thorny issue of affirmative action. A middle-class volunteer who works in an inner city school will be immersed in an environment different from the one she was raised in, and will develop a more balanced perspective on important issues such as discrimination and education. Parziale described a friendship he had with a woman through Eyes on the Elderly. “”She was one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met,”” he recalled. “”Her life was different from my own in every aspect, and I learned so much from her.”” His relationship taught him about a different life experience. University of North Carolina graduate Ajay Ojha volunteered with Americorps, a national public service organization that boasts impressive enrollment. She said of her service, “”Being a part of such a diverse team opened my eyes to the fact that no two people are alike, and as obvious as that sounds, many people never realize how wonderful this really is … eventually, a little bit of everyone you meet begins to rub off on you.”” Experience with different social and ethnic groups therefore can improve volunteers’ lives and better prepare them for the diversity they will encounter later in life. Many balk at the idea of requiring community service. They call this “”involuntary volunteerism”” and cite the efforts of well-intentioned officials who sign off on volunteer hours not completed in order to allow students to meet their requirements. However, such violations of policy, while serious, should not deter such a beneficial plan from going forward. Also, many reason that if students do not want to volunteer, they will “”drag their feet,”” and do a shoddy job in order to simply get the service over and return to class as normal. If student unwillingness were a just deterrent, it follows that we’d have no general education requirements at universities. Literature majors hate being forced into math classes, and the engineering folks complain about the obligatory humanities courses. In these cases, however, it has been decided that the benefit of these requirements outweigh students’ individual displeasure. It should be the same with community service. Many also point out that some students must work a paying job in order to finance college and pay for living expenses. In cases of dramatic financial need, some volunteer service could be reduced. In addition, college fees would be subsidized for volunteerism, much like in the Americorps program, which offers almost $5,000 in grants or loan forgiveness in exchange for a year of service. Volunteerism is a feasible way to address the social problems facing us in America. College students are graced with intelligence and understanding. They can benefit immensely from their experiences in community service and can strengthen society at large. It is not enough to go out into the world armed only with a diploma and a head full of quotations and equations; to succeed, students must feel confident and capable and feel satisfied that they are contributing to improving the community. ...

Judge Deals Microsoft a Bad Hand

It has been three, almost four long years for Bill Gates. In 1997 his company, Microsoft, was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice for breaking antitrust laws and effectively acting as a monopoly. In a shocking May 2000 decision, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson ordered the breakup of Microsoft into two companies. According to Jackson, one of the two companies would handle the operations of the Windows operating system while the other would focus on all other computer applications. Now, almost an entire year later, nothing has been settled as the case has reached the U.S. Court of Appeals and it may even reach the U.S. Supreme Court if there are more appeals to follow. The government’s case against the software giant was erroneous from the beginning, and its solutions would have had little effect. The only reason the ruling went the way it did was that the judge was obviously biased against Gates. Jackson, in breaching judicial conduct by extensively commenting on the case afterward, compared Gates to Napoleon. “”I think he has a Napoleonic concept of himself and his company,”” Jackson stated, “”an arrogance that derives from power and unalloyed success ….”” This animosity is evident and seems unfit for a person who is supposed to be unbiased. It almost looks as if the judge has some type of vendetta against Gates from the way Jackson is insulting him. This biased attitude is more than enough reason for the seven judges on the panel to throw out the case. The solution offered by the government, and accepted by the judge, is ineffective in curbing Microsoft’s dominance or its monopolistic envelopment, if one even believes it to be a monopoly. The wisdom behind breaking up the company into the proposed fashion must be questioned. Right now, nearly 90 percent of the world’s computers use the Windows operating system. Will dividing the company into two take Windows off half of that 90 percent? Would it somehow promote people to use other operating systems? Perhaps yes, but definitely not enough to make any real difference. The government’s take on this is reminiscent of how it dealt with AT&T. The government simply broke AT&T into five separate and competitive companies. The key here is that these companies competed against one another and as any economics student knows, competition brings down prices; thus the monopoly is successfully defeated. What makes the case of Microsoft different is that the two companies would not compete against one another. One side focuses on the operating system while the other handles the computer applications that depend on Windows. How will this achieve any semblance of competition, especially in the market for operating systems in which Windows would still dominate? It must be wondered if the U.S. Department of Justice even knows. Another itch the government wants scratched is the bundling of Microsoft’s Web browser, Internet Explorer, into Windows. The prosecutors’ claim that by bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, deleting the browser would cause Windows to run inefficiently, is simply preposterous. This may seem elementary, but are they not Microsoft’s products? Shouldn’t they be allowed to bundle whatever programs they want? If this is the case, then having “”Minesweeper”” preinstalled in Windows would infringe on antitrust laws, as it prohibits people from playing “”Counter Strike.”” By adding the e-Views disk to the business forecasting book for Economics 178, the publishers are not allowing students to choose between e-Views and Excel. Admittedly these examples are drawing from extremes but the point is adequately made: Having Internet Explorer preinstalled in Windows does not keep a user from using other browsers, like Netscape for example. The only substantial footing the government has in this case is its claim that Microsoft used “”bully”” tactics, or “”a web of exclusionary contracts and other restrictions,”” as the Wall Street Journal put it. Whenever a new engine would be developed, it is said Microsoft’s lawyers would swoop down like vultures, attempting to buy the rights to it. The government claims this practice stifles innovation, typical of old-economy companies. But as “”The Economist”” argues otherwise, “”In many other instances involving new technologies, a degree of temporary monopoly may be part and parcel of innovation.”” Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers suggested in a recent speech that the pursuit of monopoly power could become “”the central driving thrust of the new economy ….”” And what exactly is a “”temporary monopoly””? In summary, it is argued that in the new economy, technology such as software requires huge fixed costs but trivial marginal costs. This allows a firm to monopolize a sector once it can get past the fixed costs. The trivial marginal costs allows for a unique type of competition that the old-economy does not have. The result is a “”fragile monopoly”” where a single company can dominate for a time but is toppled by rivals. This allows a new company to take its place before it too is toppled. “”In Internet browsers … Netscape’s early dominance was supplanted by Microsoft,”” the Wall Street Journal reports. As it quotes from one of the seven judges on the panel, “”‘It really looks like one monopoly replacing another.'”” All economic theories aside, the main question remains: Is Microsoft a monopoly? If using bully tactics is enough to indict Gates’ company as a monopoly, then so be it. But then again, there aren’t any critics calling Wal-Mart a monopoly. Unfortunately, Microsoft and the antitrust boom is a long-lasting legacy of the Clinton administration. As if Bill Clinton has not marred our nation enough, he has left behind eight years of intense antitrust scrutiny, many of which are, like this particular case, uncalled for. According to “”The Economist,”” antitrust lawsuits arose four times more during the Clinton administration than during the Reagan years. In his attempt to salvage a legacy for himself because of his failures elsewhere, Clinton decided to be an antitrust watchdog, attempting to portray himself as the new Theodore Roosevelt. But Roosevelt was president in a time when the Industrial Revolution was coming to an end. We live in a time when our technological advances can hardly be fathomed. The new economy has only begun and companies’ roles in it, even a company as dominant as Microsoft, are uncertain. A decision against Microsoft by the appeals court can only hamper this advancement. ...

UCSD's Proposal Will Hurt Students Pressed for Time

The UCSD administration recently began to consider a proposal that would eliminate five minutes from the current 15-minute interval between classes. The proposal’s supporters argue that adopting a 10-minute passing period would eliminate inefficient use of classroom space, which would improve the effects of the overcrowding trend that plagues UCSD. The Guardian believes the 10-minute passing period will be an overly burdensome, quick-fix solution to a pressing problem that instead deserves less onerous, long-term solutions. Specifically, the administration failed to recognize and address the effects that campus overcrowding would undoubtedly have on classroom availability. Had campus officials begun planning classroom complexes four years ago, when overcrowding trends in on-campus housing and parking began to indicate that the university needed to prepare for an annually increasing number of enrollees, the classroom crunch would not have become such a dire situation. Ultimately, there is no reason the administration could not have foreseen a shortage in classroom space and begun preparing for it years ago by constructing new buildings — a move that may not be as feasible now, because it takes several years to move forward with building proposals. Now the administration is attempting to find a solution at the expense of the quality of student life. Just the impossibility of traveling between certain lecture halls in only 10 minutes indicates that this policy is too much for students to bear. Having suffered several losses through the implementation of high-profile, yet ultimately ineffective parking and housing growth plans, students should reject this plan, which is simply the administration’s newest attempt to shift the costs of its poor planning onto the student population. Instead of adopting the 10-minute passing period, the administration should immediately plan for new classroom complexes, which would provide long-term improvements to classroom crowding. In addition, more required courses should be offered during summer sessions. If students can complete prerequisites and general education courses during summer, the need for these courses to be offered every quarter of the standard academic year will decline, thus freeing up classroom space. If this is chosen as a method of ameliorating classroom crowding, the administration would be wise to offer evening summer courses so that students are meanwhile able to maintain summer jobs or internships. ...

School Shooting Indicates A Need for Reform in Our Competitive Society

Once again, we woke up to the news that a high school student aimed a weapon at his classmates and started shooting. This time the episode left an even deeper mark, because it happened so close to home. Location should not make any difference but, understandably, it does. Once again, we are left with a knot of contrasting feelings. The pity for the victims and their families; the disconcert at how something like this could happen again; the blind, if humanly understandable, rage of those who call for more security and tougher sentences. To this we should add a dose of Christian pietas for the murderer, but this seems out of fashion these days. Yet this flurry of feelings, and the often draconian measures that it inspires, is always directed at the single episodes, failing to see the preoccupying pattern that lies behind these instances. A whole generation seems taken by a self-destructive fury, which can take several forms: the lust for self-destruction of the drug user, or the willingness to inflict destruction on the part of the person who picks up a gun. In any case, they are symptoms of a social malaise that we still do not recognize in all its seriousness. Our gore-hungry media give us news only of particularly dramatic occurrences like school shootings, but these rest upon a substratum of teen violence in the inner cities, gang violence and so on. School shootings are not “”normal”” murders (even if such a thing as a normal murder exists). The kids who shoot do it with full knowledge that they will be arrested and tried. They do not try to hide their identities and in some cases (as in the Columbine shooting), they start their rampage with a lucid suicidal intention. These are not normal crimes, and calls to barbaric and useless measures like trying minors as adults will not help understanding. Understanding is what we need, now more than ever. It is true that adolescents have always been and always will be destructive and disruptive and have a conscious desire to break away from their parents and the society they represent. This is a healthy part of their growing process and an important component of raising social awareness. The intensity and frequency of manifestation such as murderous rages or suicidal drug habits, which know no barriers of geography, race or economic status, however, make one wonder whether there is something more in the scream of desperation that a whole generation is sending us. How responsible are we, the adults, for this malaise? What do we know of this generation? Its members grow up alone in families too burdened by long working hours or hectic schedules to give them real support; they are surrounded by the material wealth and the barren human contact of suburban life. They grow in an environment in which the only occasions to socialize are connected to the consumption of goods. A mall is not a place where a person learns to stay with people, but when was the last time you saw in your neighborhood a community center, or even a piazza? We are going to extraordinary lengths not to teach our children the basic skills of human interaction. Sometimes we do this to shield them, since human interaction is often painful. Sometimes we do it because we are too self-absorbed or because the pressure on us doesn’t even leave us any space for human interaction. The results are equally tragic. One of the most important components of an adolescent life is the need to belong. But we indoctrinate adolescents with the idea that such a desire is a weakness, because it diminishes competitiveness. We show them that one must conform to the norms of the group (otherwise he will be a “”weirdo””) and, at the same time, not ask the group for help (otherwise he will be a “”loser””). Very soon in his life a child is taught that he must be self-reliant, competitive and a leader. Very soon he is taught (either directly or through example) that winning is the only thing that matters and that a winner is necessarily alone. Are we pushing children too far with too many activities and commitments, mostly for the parents’ own gratification? Are we not letting them be children, play with children, fight with children, possibly beat each other up to learn those boundaries and confidences that constitute a social body? We are a society of very lonely people, and children see that. We are a society in which males are taught to be afraid of intimacy and not to trust each other. Are we sure that the too-good children of today are not preparing the desperate, self-destructive adolescents of tomorrow? I wish I knew. I have, alas, only questions. A whole generation has been subject to a cruel experiment of social Darwinism: Let them grow alone, in families too distracted to follow them adequately, and in an urban environment leading to loneliness. Let them be educated since childhood to compete and to prevail over each other. Do this to separate the strong from the weak. The strong will grow up to give the next generation of gadget-loving, technologically advanced workers. The weak will self-destruct with drugs or, tragically, will take a gun and shoot whoever will happen to be in their line of sight. I am shocked and I am sad for the victims of Monday’s shooting: The two boys who died just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the boy who will spend the rest of his life in prison. ...

In the Wise Words of President Bush …

The first couple of months of President George W. Bush’s term in office have provided us with some memorable comedic moments. I don’t know if it’s from the coke or the booze, but the man cannot talk. I have yet to hear him clearly present a complete thought. What makes it even more entertaining, though, is that Bush loves to talk. He seems to be totally unaware that the whole country is laughing at him, or at least trying to stifle its laughter as he poops out sentence after meaningless sentence. But why should I continue ridiculing him when he does a better job of it himself? Let the show begin. Bush realized he was entering a hostile Washington two months ago. He claimed that people had “”misunderestimated”” him. I would concur, except that I would not be sure what I was concurring with, considering that “”misunderestimated”” is not a word. But even with this misunderestimation, he would like to assure us that he is capable of the job at hand. One of his goals while in office will be to make America a “”literate country and a hopefuller country,”” which will be easily accomplished, as he is well-informed of each of the three branches’ governmental roles. According to a Nov. 22 interview conducted in Texas: “”It’s the executive branch’s job to interpret law.”” Despite this insignificant misinformation, Dubya is “”hopefuller”” about our country’s future. In a Dec. 8 interview, he said to an Austin source: “”The greatest thing about America is that everybody should vote.”” Well that’s true, but is that really the greatest thing about America? I thought the most depressing thing about America is that everybody should vote but hardly anyone does. But don’t judge Bush too quickly. He and Dick Cheney have set before them an ambitious agenda (especially considering the brain power they have to work with). Bush has been heavily endorsing his tax cut plan recently: “”My pan plays down an unprecedented amount of our national debt.”” And I have no doubt that his pan will do that. Bush would like to be a strong president so as to continue “”preserving executive powers for myself, but for predecessors as well,”” because we all know his predecessors will be affected by his performance in office. One of my favorite Bushisms consists of Bush explaining the ambitious climate in the District of Columbia: “”I know there is a lot of ambition in Washington, obviously. But I hope the ambitious realize that they are more likely to succeed with success as opposed to failure.”” So that means success is better than failure? Thanks for clarifying, Dubya. We weren’t sure about that one. In the arena of foreign policy, Dubya has been busy clarifying his administration’s position, which is that it likes everyone. In case our neighbors up north were having doubts, Bush tried to make clear that we want to be friends with Canada: “”I confirmed to the prime minister that we appreciate our friendship.”” I’m sure Prime Minister Jean Chretien is grateful that Bush likes being friends with himself. Defense has also become a key issue in the agenda of his new administration. Bush would like to have “”a ballistic defense system so that we can make the world more peaceful, and at the same time I want to reduce our own nuclear capacities to the level commiserate with keeping the peace.”” I looked “”commiserate”” up in the dictionary and I don’t think Bush’s objective was to feel the peace. Bush has also become interested in discontinuing the U.S. participation in NATO. Using one of his more well-thought sentences, he unsuccessfully explained the task of removing the country from NATO: “”Redefining the role of the United States from enablers to keep the peace to enablers to keep the peace from peacekeepers is going to be an assignment.”” So we have to enable ourselves to keep the peace as well as keeping the peace from the peacekeepers. And what percentage of the United States understood that sentence? Yeah, two of us. And neither of them was you, Dubya. If those controlling you wanted to advocate the United States leaving NATO, why not just say that, instead of tripping over yourself more than once in the same sentence? Mr. Eloquent has been hard at work formulating his positions on domestic issues. We are all aware of California’s current ongoing power shortage. Well Bush, the scientist that he is, has discovered why we’re having such difficulties in the Golden State. “”The California crunch really is the result of not enough power-generating plants, and then not enough power to power the power of generating plants.”” So our problem is, according to that mess of a sentence, that we do not have enough power to power our power plants. Oh. Right. I’ll leave that one alone. In the past month, Bush has created the new White House Office for Faith-Based Initiatives. Let’s recollect what the objective of this office is before I allow Bush to further embarrass himself. Essentially, this office is charged with the distribution of funds to charities run by churches. All right, I’ll let Dubya take over. Bush wants to reassure all of us that although he has “”heard a lot of discussion about a faith-based initiative eroding the important bridge between church and state,”” this won’t happen. So, Georgey, explain to me how doling out money to religious organizations is dangerous to the bond of church and state. First of all, unofficially we are not supposed to have that important bridge between church and state here in the United States. Secondly, your office will reinforce it instead of destroying it. The next four years will sure be interesting. We will be entering new territory in the sense that when our president represents us internationally, he will be conversing with non-English-speaking leaders who know how to speak his native language better than he does. I would like to leave off with one of my current favorite Bushisms. When asked about his appointment of Linda Chavez as labor secretary, Dubya displayed his normal muddled state: “”I would have to ask the questioner. I haven’t had a chance to ask the questioners the question they’ve been questioning.”” Well done. ...

Spontaneity Isn't All That Great

Two Fridays ago I was searching the Internet for something interesting to do on a Saturday night. I happened to come across an ad for Henry Rollins’ Spoken Word show down at 4th & B. The show was on the following Wednesday, not that Saturday, but I thought, “”Hey, I hardly know anything about this guy’s music, but ‘Liar’ really cracks me up, so why don’t I check it out?”” So I called a friend, he agreed to go, we went, we laughed, it was a great show. The following day at work I was slacking off and discussing the show with a co-worker who turned out to be a Black Flag/Rollins Band fan. “”Why didn’t you go to the show?”” I asked him. “”Ah, well I heard about it, but I thought it was later in the month, and since I hadn’t planned it out, I just gave up on going,”” was his response. That’s when another co-worker chimed in and asked why planning was a prerequisite to going. His almost sheepish reply was “”Well, that’s just the way I am. I kinda like to plan things if I’m gonna do them ….”” This got me all fired up because that’s exactly how I am. I like to plan things. I like to know what’s going to happen ahead of time so I can be prepared, and I very rarely do things on the fly. When I was younger, this was considered a positive trait. It signified maturity and forethought. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that more and more people value spontaneity. Somewhere between homeroom and my dorm room, my peers began equating “”planning”” with “”boring.”” All of the sudden, I wasn’t fun if I wasn’t spontaneous. I reached the height of my spontaneity crisis during my second year at UCSD. I had a boyfriend who was forever exasperated by my anal-retentiveness. In a valiant attempt to increase my “”fun-ness,”” I desperately began trying to be less of a control freak. If he unexpectedly wanted to ditch class and go surfing instead, I’d gnash my teeth but trudge along. I was also always on the lookout for new and interesting things to try just so he wouldn’t think I was unadventurous. Pretty soon I found myself constantly stressing out, asking “”How can I be spontaneous today?”” Eventually I realized the lameness of my endeavors. My efforts at being a fun, carefree, whimsical free spirit were causing me more anxiety than all my meticulous planning ever did. With my purpose and my will defeated, I resigned myself to being stuffy, boring and “”unfun.”” But now, three years later and supposedly wiser, I’ve come to realize the futility of fighting myself. Screw spontaneity! The next time it rains on your parade I’ll be the one with an umbrella, because I checked the weather forecast and you didn’t. I shouldn’t have to feel sheepish for planning my life down to the last minute detail, nor should any of my fellow control freaks. There are times when I still wish I possessed that Charlize Theron-esque freedom of spirit. But it’s just not who I am. Spontaneity is fun, but when it’s forced, I end up making myself even more uncomfortable and other people notice my discomfort. The more I fight myself, the more I realize that there are some things I can never change. And I shouldn’t have to. I should not have to feel guilty about something that is not necessarily a fault. I should not let others make me feel guilty about something that is not wrong. Everyone has something they wish they could change in themselves. But how many times do we stop and ask ourselves if the change is really necessary, or why we wish to change it in the first place? I do see the value in being able to let loose every once in a while and go with the flow. I was, in truth, rather proud of myself for going to the Rollins show. Going to hear a musician whose work I’m unfamiliar with — on a night I usually don’t go out, no less — is about as spontaneous as I get these days. That and announcing, “”I will now be spontaneous! Ready? Here I come!”” ...

SAT I: Putting it to the Test

The three most dreaded letters in a high school student’s vocabulary might finally come to an end and I, for one, although no longer a part of the high school crowd, could not be more ecstatic. The Scholastic Aptitude Test, commonly known as the SAT, has recently been questioned by the president of the University of California, Richard Atkinson. Among other highly debatable arguments, Atkinson proposed that students need a more “”holistic”” approach to admisions and that eliminating the SAT I from the admission process would be a way to “”get more people in,”” as well as be a benefit to minorities and other students. Dropping the SAT I in the admission process is an action that is long overdue. Being both unfair and unjust, this highly controversial test contains more than one problem that needs to be resolved. It is also time to get rid of those No. 2 pencils and the endless hours of bubbling in answers to unnecessary questions. For years, students have had to prove their academic ability through this aptitude test, which contains only verbal and math categories. Students are not tested in other skills, such as history or science, and are only given three opportunities to take the test before they turn in applications for colleges. This alone proves how unnecessary and unjust the test it. Another evident point lies in the fact that some students, including me, do not have the test-taking skills that others do. It is for this reason that some tend to do so poorly and do not get into colleges, while others, who might have slacked of all their high school lives, receive a perfect score and get into Yale. Yet another problem lies in the fact that the SAT I has essentially tortured students, some of who begin to study and prepare for it starting in junior high school. Since the SAT has historically been such a big part of college admission process, along with GPA, essays and extracurricular activities, students have felt the pressure to start early in preparing, which includes paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars to take preparatory classes. This tremendous amount of pressure is somewhat of a cruel punishment to these students who essentially compete with each other to get higher scores. Determining admissions through GPA, essay and activities alone would be a tremendous benefit to a great number of students. For instance, getting rid of the SAT I would be a likely factor in increasing minority enrollment, something that the UC system desperately needs. Ever since the passage of Proposition 209 in 1995, which outlawed affirmative action in all California public universities, minority admissions have decreased overall. According to “”Newsweek”” magazine, income level and race has greatly varied — specifically decreased — when it has come down to scores on the SAT. While Asian-Americans had a higher average compared to African-Americans, Latinos and whites, Latinos had the lowest averages both in verbal and math. This evidence has proven the fact that the SAT I is an unfair way to determine how capable a student is academically when entering a university. By eliminating the SAT I in the admission process, not only will minorities have the opportunity to have a better chance of getting in, but the rest of the students who are not the best test-takers will also have a higher chance of getting accepted. Eliminating the SAT I for UC admissions affects us college folks here at UCSD, who have, of course, already had the pleasure of taking the test. With the SAT I gone, there will be an increase in minority students on campus, something the UC has been striving to do ever since Prop. 209 went into effect. This can be taken to be a bad sign, but having more people would mean more professors, a bigger campus and, well, more friends to go all around. With more and more students applying to UCSD every year, acceptance rates will go up, as will UCSD’s reputation. With all of this controversy, all of us are probably asking the question, “”Why didn’t they have the idea to get rid of the SAT I when we were in high school?”” It is true that we all had to go through the painful and nerve-racking SAT I before, but that should be just one of the many other reasons why the SAT I should not be a big part of the admissions process now or in the future. All in all, one test should not be the deciding factor for one’s future. As Atkinson so perfectly stated when arguing his case, “”Something must be done.”” ...