Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Shot through the heart, and you're to blame...

Nearly eight weeks ago, a stingray off the coast of Queensland killed global celebrity Steve Irwin. The world was devastated. Memorials, vigils, building dedications all took place in his honor, even an unofficial backlash against the mild-mannered animal that took his life.

This past week, Matt Stone and Trey Parker displayed their memorial to Irwin.

While Satan was throwing a costume party in hell, a man showed up as Steve Irwin with a barb stuck in his heart. After declaring it “too soon,” Satan discovered the man was actually Steve Irwin, and was kicked out of the party for not having a costume.

Critics of this episode point out that it is indeed too soon to mention this. But when has South Park shied away from controversial content? Exactly.

In fact, the writers approach it very delicately. In the episode they even go as far and declare that it is “too soon” to use Steve Irwin as a joke. There was absolutely no disrespect made to Steve Irwin or his family in his animated appearance.

If he were depicted in an epic five minute long battle with a giant ray then yes, that definitely would have been offensive. But the truth is that he was represented in good taste. The comedic value from the scene stems around the awkward situation that Satan was put in which, ironically, is the same exact situation critics are in with this episode.

Two months have passed since the tragedy. Respects have been paid and people have moved on with their lives. People are waiting for an unspecified amount of time to pass before they will not feel bad about laughing at this.

In the same scene, Princess Diana, Adolph Hitler, Frank Sinatra, and Mahatma Gandhi all are in attendance at the costume ball, yet people do not see a problem with this at all? Satan is dressed as Britney Spears, and is throwing a costume party in hell. How is this show something to be taken seriously?

The “too soon,” excuse is just to get people to stop thinking about the tragedy that occurred. Comedy serves as a device to turn a somber situation into a happy one. The man did not die in a horrific car accident, but rather he was killed doing something he loved.

The creators of South Park are not making fun of Steve Irwin at all, but rather they are making fun of the entire situation. Comedy helps people cope with death, which is exactly why people suggest reflecting upon the happier times when a loved one dies. Remembering all the quirks and funny things about a person helps people cope.

People are just looking too far into it. They are looking into all the other controversial things South Park has done, or how much it has offended them in the past and unfairly attacking the show. Well, if the show were so incredibly ludicrous and offensive people simply would not watch it.

Matt Stone and Trey Parker are not creating a show with a ton of character depth, but rather a satire that depends on controversy to thrive.

Displaying Steve Irwin with a barb in his chest is not offensive, while on the other hand, making fun of the way a man died is. Stone and Parker do not cross that line, but instead present the situation in a respectful manner.

Move Over Constitution

After six years of George W. Bush, Americans have become accustomed to war. There is the war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the “War on Terror”, and the ongoing war on the US Constitution. The next attack on the Constitution is currently being launched via the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Most Americans looked the other way when the Patriot Act hit. It was 45 days after the attacks of 9-11 and we were willing to give up some of our rights, yes, even those rights guaranteed to us by the founding fathers of the United States. The government convinced us that we were in constant danger so we remained in constant fear.

Most of us looked the other way when the government wanted to read our private medical records. Many of us didn't care that the government was checking our library records. After all, it could help catch some book-enthused terrorist. Some of us didn't even mind that the government could search our homes without notification, justification, or a warrant. At least we were safer, right?

They insisted we were safer but apparently not safe enough. We weren't even safe enough to be told about the National Security Agency's secret unconstitutional warrantless wiretapping which invades our privacy and takes away our right to due process. We didn't need privacy because we were somehow convinced that spying without a warrant helps get the terrorists. The government could have even requested a warrant after spying but that somehow hurt their effectiveness.

Those were just a few minor intrusions on the Constitution, but it's not a big deal, right? We don't really believe that the founding fathers wanted us to have all of the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution, especially not after being attacked by terrorists.

Last week President Bush signed what he called “the most important piece of legislation in the war on terror,” officially known as the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Bush said that the Act would allow captured enemy combatants a fair trial.

The Act has clear regulations defining who can be classified as an enemy combatant. The requirements are as follows: Anyone whom the President designates as an enemy combatant is an enemy combatant. I'm glad they cleared that up.

This means that anyone, US citizen or not, can be an enemy combatant. If the government decides to accuse your mother, father, sister, brother, or friend of being an enemy combatant, they have no right to be released from detainment nor do they have to be charged with a crime. They aren't even allowed their constitutional right to ask why they are being imprisoned.

The mere fact that the President says someone is an enemy combatant is a good enough reason to hold them indefinitely without their most basic rights. The man who can not pronounce the word “nuclear” can pronounce you an enemy combatant. At least this makes us safer, right?

The Act does anything but give a fair trial to anyone. As a matter of fact, the Act takes away many constitutional rights from enemy combatants. The enemy combatants are denied due process of the law and are not entitled to habeas corpus. That means the defendants are not entitled to “fairness” under due process and they can not challenge their detention. They are to be held until a military court decides to try them.

The government can charge the enemy combatant with hearsay evidence, illegally obtained evidence, and evidence which was classified and not even known to the defense. It sounds unfair, but the defendant is still judged by a jury of their US Military peers. The US Military officers, some of whom are returning from active duty in Iraq, will somehow overcome the bias they gained while being shot at by actual enemy combatants and judge the defendant based on the “evidence.” If two-thirds of these military personnel decide the defendant is guilty, he or she is guilty. Sounds fair to me.

Why should the bad guys get a fair trial? We hold them with questionable justification, convict them on hearsay, and convict them by majority. That is good enough for someone classified as an enemy combatant. They are the enemy combatants, aren't they?

One of the lessons taught in journalism school is never to compare anything to the Nazis. The Nazis were the worst people ever to rule, so no one could ever be that bad again. Fair enough. Let's compare the Bush Administration to the Nazis before World War Two and before the Nazis started trying to wipe other races off the planet.

In the 1930's Nazi leadership blamed a congressional house fire on terrorists and then they frightened the legislature into passing the Military Commissions...I mean the Enabling Act. The Enabling Act gave extreme powers to Hitler and gave less power to the other branches of the government. The main power given to Hitler was the ability to hold prisoners indefinitely without charge. Even if you agree with the need for such authority, in whose hands should this much power be trusted to?

American freedoms are being chipped away at by a power-hungry government. They tell us that we are safer and they tell us that this Act is fair. I don't feel safer knowing that I can be held forever without the right to defend myself fairly just because the President says I am an enemy combatant.

Chancellor Bush told Americans that the terrorists hate us because they hate our freedoms. Maybe if he takes all of our freedoms away all of the terrorists will surrender. Maybe they will even love us.

Rock the Vote (or don't)

So word on the street is there’s some sort of election coming up. Maybe you’re registered to vote, maybe you’re not. The responsible thing would probably be to encourage you to register if you aren’t. But if you’re not registered, isn’t it more important to inform yourself on the candidates and the issues before you worry about registering?

Walking through the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the New Voters Project is easy to find. On the first floor of the Union, right by the other tables in the Union that tell people to join a frat or the Student Pirate Club (or whoever those people with the skull and crossbones flag are.)

Their mission is to get students to vote. A nonpartisan group, they don’t encourage anyone to vote for any individual candidates. All they want is students in the voting booths on Election Day.

They can tell you all sorts of useful information, such as where to find your polling place and the rules on registering to vote in Wisconsin. One thing you won’t get from the New Voters Project is any information on the candidates.

They instruct their volunteers to sign as many people as possible to either register or “pledge” to vote, regardless if that person even knows what address to use for registering. Once that person signs up, they walk away, no more informed than when they were first approached by a New Voters Project volunteer.

But maybe they’re right. Maybe we need to take baby steps. Maybe just showing up deserves a pat on the back. At least you tried. Most of the country can’t even be bothered to do that. After all, voting is the foundation on which our democracy is built. It doesn’t matter who you vote for, just as long as you’re at the polls on November 7.

In fact, not only does it not matter who you vote for, it doesn’t matter why you’re voting for them.

Maybe you want to vote for Jim Doyle because you agree with his stance on funding for stem cell research. Maybe you want to vote for Doyle because he has “soft eyes.” Maybe you want to vote for him because you think it would be fun to draw pictures on his bald head with lipstick.

Maybe you actually agree with Mark Green’s stance on restrictions on stem cell research, but vote for Doyle anyway because you can’t read. As long as you’re voting, that’s all that matters.

Not only does it not matter who you vote for or why you vote for them, it also doesn’t matter if you know who is on the ballot. Sure most people who have looked at a newspaper or watched the local news once in the last two months knows who the gubernatorial candidates are.

But who are your candidates for Secretary of State? What about the candidates for State Senator in your district? Do you know who’s running for Vice Mayor?

That last one was a trick question. Vice Mayor is actually an appointed position, not an elected one. Everyone knows that.

But it doesn’t matter if you did. As long as you’re voting, that’s all that matters.

Same-Sex Classrooms: Separate but Equal?

An announcement by the Bush administration to allow expansion of same-sex classes in public schools nationwide has me wondering if Title IX has been swept under the rug.

The federal action will allow same-sex public schools and classes, so long as enrollment is voluntary according to a recent Journal Sentinel article.

While progressive ideas toward education are fine and dandy, same-sex classrooms seem one-sided and it looks like the boys in Wisconsin are getting all of the bennies.

Supporters of same-sex classes say that they provide better learning environments for students, allowing teachers to focus on the different needs of boys and girls. These are the same people that think gender in inherent and not learned through social norms. Thus, gender stereotyping prevails.

One article from a Grafton newspaper describes one teacher’s boys-only classes at Kennedy Middle School as “boy-friendly”. She elaborates by saying that in the boy’s classes, reading assignments are more “action-adventure” and focus on classic male-dominated narratives such as “Julius Caesar” and “The Odyssey”. She also notes that the classroom is set up with chairs that are more comfortable for the boys to move-around in, since as she says, “they just need that movement.”

This example alone shows that regulations the require same-sex classes to be substantially equal to those offered co-ed are mere empty words. While the boys are sitting in comfy chairs and reading shoot-em-up stories, other children are subject to a different, more stringent environment. This hardly sounds equal.

The main argument is that separating the sexes in the classroom will help children focus on learning in an environment where they feel safe and have room for expression. Wonderful.

However, there does not seem to be an agency in place that will monitor whether the children in same-sex or co-ed classes are getting fair treatment or the same educational opportunities.

All children have different educational needs. Their sex alone does not designate what subjects they will excel in or where they need more help. Statistics only show the outcome of deeply rooted gender stereotypes that children are subjected to.

Placing boys and girls in separate classes doesn’t mean that they aren’t learning. The question is what they are learning. If teachers are tailoring lesson plans to fulfill pre-conceived notions about gender, they are simply reinforcing the stereotypes and thus limiting the student.

To teach a subject in a “boy or girl-friendly” manner sub-consciously tells that student that this is the only way they will be able to grasp the subject.

I can just see the girl’s math class now: “Sally has two Malibu Barbies. She trades one of them with Susie for a Cabbage Patch doll and gives the other one to Jill in exchange for a Ball Barbie. How many Barbies does Sally have?”

Others might say that students in same-sex classes have better test scores, GPAs and there is a higher probability that they will go onto college. However, most of this rhetoric comes from studies done on schools in urban areas where the majority of students come are low-income and minority. What the studies don’t say is that the classes in these schools are hideously over-crowded and lack resources and funding desperately. So when same-sex classroom experiments are done in these schools, where classes are smaller and thus give teachers more one-on-one time with students, the outcome is better. How profound!

It is one thing to have these separated classes in private schools, where regulations are different. However, to segregate boys and girls in public schools has dangerous potential to limit the child’s development.

This kind of rhetoric is vaguely reminiscent of that which pervaded our thought prior to the women’s movement. Who’s to say that the philosophy supporters of same-sex classes- that gender is inherent, that all boys and girls “naturally” learn in different ways- cannot be used to resurrect a sexist dialogue?

Here’s a crazy idea: smaller class sizes, more after-school learning programs and increased parental involvement? These are extremely valuable resources for students of all ages. Let’s focus on developing the children and showing them how to grow in a diverse environment. Segregating students by sex will hinder this process and open the door for other forms of sanctioned discrimination.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Different Kind of Solution

By: Andrew Olejnik
A Different Kind of Solution

De Wallen, famous for its adult carnival and red lights, has tolerated prostitution for centuries, in the Netherlands.

When visiting, adults feel like Alice in Wonderland. Walking through De Wallen is sure to give any American a culture shock.

But even some members of the Dutch sex industry organization think Dutch VVD liberals have a new strange idea for them.

Dutch soldiers are increasingly being taken by the highest levels of stress ever while on missions in the Middle East. Something needs to be done to provide some relief. I don’t think the Dutch Military had any idea liberal politicians like Annemarie Jorritsma would propose the use of prostitutes as the answer.

My dad, who immigrated to the Netherlands in 1988, thinks this idea is a bit odd and who is really to blame him? On the other hand, he’s not surprised by it. I remember him saying “The Dutch is as liberal as they get!”

He might be right; Americans would never accept this as a solution for stress among their soldiers. Our culture does not tolerate prostitution like the liberal Dutch society does.

But this idea is even ridiculous for some of the Dutch. Andre van Dorst of the Sex Industry Organization in Amsterdam has told the Dutch Media that he finds this idea a strange move for politicians.

However, Dutch liberals aren’t joking. Their solution would be to allow the Dutch Military to hire prostitutes from the Sex Industry Organization. These ladies would travel abroad with Dutch soldiers.

Hiring girls, which normally work under the red lights, would bring a new taboo to the Dutch about their military. I think the Dutch would really standout among the other soldiers involved with NATO and its peacekeeping process.

Strangely, the Dutch Military would be providing an opportunity for the Dutch Sex Industry to grow. Many more females would be given the choice to work as a prostitute.

You would think this idea would only win the support of some pervert who thinks about sex a little too much. Oddly enough, one of the hugest supporters of this idea is a female.

Jorritsma is a prominent member in the ruling VVD Liberals Union. She is so fond of this idea that she made an out of the ordinary move and went on Dutch National Television to support it.

She made a statement claiming that this is the best way for Dutch soldiers to let off some steam. She thinks that the soldiers would perform better, in the military, if they were allowed to see some prostitutes.

A government official, in the United States, would never dare to go on National Television to support this. The American public would be outraged.
For America, prostitution is not culturally acceptable. Congress would never support this idea like the Dutch VVD party does.

Even if the Dutch are famous for their liberal ideas like the legalization of prostitution in De Wallen, this idea is still outrageous.
Dutch soldiers have to follow the rules of marriage like everyone else. Dutch Military spokesman Wim van den Burg agrees. During an interview, he told the press that his wife would be upset if he saw a prostitute.

In De Wallen, prostitution is mainly a popular tourist attraction. The area draws thousands of tourists, from all over the world, daily. Many Dutchmen visit the area as well but the area is mainly for tourists.

Prostitution in the Netherlands is confined to controlled areas like De Wallen. I wonder how appropriate it would be to expand it to military bases.

Jorritsma, thinks this is the best way for Dutch soldiers to let off steam but is this really acceptable? The Royal Dutch army right now has 2,000 active soldiers.

Most of the Dutch soldiers are in Afghanistan right now. Has anybody in the ruling VVD liberals thought about how much this would upset the Muslims there?

In Afghanistan, sexual references involving women are not tolerated. Sex before marriage is not socially acceptable. Imagine, how upset everyone there and elsewhere in the Middle East would be if prostitutes were brought to the Afghan region.

For Afghan culture, it is completely dishonorable for a woman to have sex before marriage. The women’s family is embarrassed enough that commonly they are willing to murder them after such instances. This type of behavior is known as honor killings and is culturally backed.

It would be wrong to bring prostitutes to Afghanistan and would, ultimately, create trouble. Jorritsma should come up with a better solution.

Think about the message Dutch soldiers would send to the people in Afghanistan. Afghan women will wonder why Dutch culture is more tolerant to prostitution and sex before marriage. This could possibly make Dutch soldiers a target for violence in Afghanistan.

The Dutch Military should consider efforts to protect its military if they do begin to hire prostitutes. They would be putting soldiers in even more stressful situations.

According to Canadian General David Fraser, the southern part of Afghanistan is one of the most high-stress zones in the peacekeeping process.

His Brigade had served the area, for eight months, before the Dutch Military took control of security their. In an area that is already known for strong resistance. I think that, the Dutch Military would be asking for trouble if they really brought prostitutes to Afghanistan.

The Dutch soldiers won’t be able to hide during patrols. Since there are numerous countries involved in the peacekeeping process each convoy is labeled with their country’s flag.

If the Dutch begin to bring women from the Red Light District to their operation it would be appropriate to consider removing their flags. This would prevent them from standing out while on patrol.

If the soldiers are that stressed the best solution would be to rotate another unit into Southern Afghanistan. It makes no sense to upset the wives of Dutchmen by allowing their husbands to see prostitutes for stress relief.

Meanwhile, if the Dutch are to remain in Southern Afghanistan for more of an extended period of time there is other solutions. Dutch politicians like Jorritsma should consider giving soldiers vacations.

I think it would more appropriate to send Dutch soldiers to a Caribbean resort to relax than to have prostitutes accompany them on missions.

The Dutch have plenty of islands in the Caribbean. The Dutch Military could contract with resorts and send the soldiers and their families, routinely, for some fun in the sun.

Why risk offending the Muslim community in Afghanistan? I think Jorritsma should reconsider the statement she made on television.

Mixing prostitutes with the military is not the answer. This, truly, is a strange solution.

Such a resolution could destroy the Dutch Military’s image worldwide. I’m convinced no other country that is a member of NATO would even consider the liberal taboo that some of the Dutch VVD is considering for their military.

But I am American; I can’t accept prostitutes, in the military, because my culture has taught me that prostitution is wrong.

If the American society was liberal, like the Netherlands, I might view prostitutes accompanying soldiers in a new light. However, even some of the Dutch think this idea is preposterous.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Attack of the Dry Erase Board

When I was preparing to move out of my house for my junior year of college, I didn’t tell everyone what my living situation was going to be. When I did, people responded with a little shock. It’s not all the time that a female college student responds to a roommate ad by two guys.

I was interested in the apartment because of the cheap price, and the ad said that they would take a female roommate. When we met and when out to Noodles together, I knew it was the right fit. Even if it did seem odd, our personalities matched, and they were even both journalism majors. I thought of some of the advantages I would have living with guys, such as making up for not having brothers, or having more emotional space, and I started to think that they might actually make better roommates for me than girls.

Looking back on the last school year of living with Matt and Kyle and comparing it to my new situation with girls, I can say that my hypothesis proved correct. Fond memories include that of pizza being the only smell that coming from the kitchen, the sound of gleeful impersonations during Monday night wrestling, and charming, yet unsightly decorations that kept popping up around the apartment (“Star Wars,” anyone?).

The only rude awakening came when Kyle’s cleaning methods were revealed. I remember asking, “So, Kyle, I think Soft Scrub works better for the bathtub. What did you use?” Kyle looked up from his computer. “Oh, I mopped it,” he said. I didn’t bother to question my oblivious roommate. I just cleaned it myself the next time.

But somehow I would still prefer annoyances that come from living with guys because they often turn out to be amusing, if you are lighthearted. The annoyances that I have found this year as a female living with my own sex have been much more cumbersome.

The most obvious advantage to living with guys is that they are more laid back. Last year, we split the chores evenly by category. I took care of the kitchen, Kyle the bathroom and Matt the vacuuming and garbage. If I felt guilty about not getting at the dishes, I told Matt that I would do them the next day when I was done with a paper. “When ever you get to it,” he would reply.

My first set of roommates didn’t bring up or care about any petty issues like this one. This is because guys usually aren’t as contentious.

That’s a good thing.

It has been a different climate living with girls. It started with a dripping faucet.

I thought it was annoying when my female roommate knocked on my door to tell me that I didn’t turn the bathroom faucet off all the way. It’s something that I probably would not do next time anyway.
Later, her request turned up on a dry erase board that she purchased. Studies have shown that women are socialized into using indirect aggression. I would say the dry erase board is an instance of this. When my old roommates and I had a problem, we would just talk about it – in a direct manner. They never even noticed problems like dripping faucets.

The next best thing about living with guys was that it made the kitchen a much more pleasant place. My roommates didn’t have as much food, and as typical college guys, they didn’t cook, so I had plenty of room in the fridge and the dishwasher didn’t hike up the electric bill.

When I came back to my apartment after visiting family this August, my new roommates showed me that they reorganized the fridge – that is, Mara’s stuff on the top, Heidi’s on the middle and mine on the bottom.

I guess we needed to be organized if there is more stuff in the kitchen, but this seemed slightly undemocratic to me. Again, it’s harder to deal with this when you are with girls who are less direct. Maybe Matt didn’t rinse his dishes off, but at least there were no chances of having any larger kitchen conflicts.

The main objection to a co-ed college household is that things may get strange because of romantic feelings. I didn’t have this problem because Kyle was into his girlfriend and there were enough difference between Matt and me that we would never be interested in each other. I’ll illustrate:

Matt: I got this beer glass at a brewery tour. I really like it.
Tasha: Yeah.

Tasha: I like my Shakespeare class. I think a lot of themes in the plays relate to life.
Matt: (Silence)

Male roommates, do, however, provide options for dating people other than them. At both of their birthday parties, for example, I was obviously out numbered. I also liked hanging out with their friends because it provided a balance to my circle of female friends. When they didn’t include me, I didn’t feel as bad as I would with girls. With girls, there is more social pressure to be good friends and it would hurt to be rejected.

There may be more closeness with female roommates, but when all girls live together, there is also likely going to be more dissonance. Since there is a natural distance necessary to feel comfortable when two genders live together, there is also less chance that you will get in each other’s hair.

Maybe a “Rolling Stone” magazine cover with Darth Vader wasn’t the coolest thing to have on the wall, but I am starting to miss it when I look at the newest message on the dry erase board.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The good, the bad, and the ugly

By Jo Lopez

While I was walking to class the other day I looked down to see a leaflet stuck to the ground. It was folded so that all I could see read, “$4000.00 REWARD,” that was enough to make me pick it up.

What followed the unfolding of the leaflet stopped me in my tracks. The reward was for offering information that would help arrest and convict the person or persons that shot and killed Joseph Munz.

My column topic this week was already decided before seeing this leaflet, but man did this really drive it home.

You wouldn’t think it but homicides in Milwaukee are currently at a pace that will fall short of 2005.

O.K. here are a few numbers to back the claim of homicides being down; from January 1 to June 30 there were 59 murders in 2005, and during the same time in 2006 there were 49 (Milwaukee Police Department) a small drop, but a drop.

Then why is does it seem that it’s the other way around? I’ve been thinking on this for weeks. This thought led me to another more profound question. Does the local media coverage affect our perception of violence in Milwaukee?

To put it in one word, yes. The media plays a considerable role in shaping the way [we] look at our city and the community as a whole.

One side affect of the media’s over coverage has on many is that it causes a sense of hysteria. Watching the news can scare the crap out of people. People hear or read of the Munz killing or Special Olympian killed while waiting at bus stop, and freak.

You better watch out there old person, because evildoers are coming FOR YOU NEXT!!

I can’t say I blame them. Who I do blame is the person who coined the phrase “If it bleeds it leads,” when deciding what news stories to cover. This is not to say that the death of these two individuals isn’t news, it is in every way.

What gets to me is the amount of coverage each news outlet puts to it. Four different channels serving up the same dish on a different plate. The same answers to the same questions.

Another affect from the media bombardment is victimizing the victim. How many times do we see or hear of some bonehead reporter knocking on the door of mother who just lost their child hours ago to ask how they feel about their tragic lost. Yeah that’s just what they need.

When I see stunts like that I don’t feel more informed it makes squirm in my seat, and I want to change the channel. There is a time and place to ask questions, moments after a violent crime is not one of them.

Lastly there is the fear of people who live in these high crime areas that dread even calling the police to report a crime out of fear of becoming victims themselves.

If people were afraid to call the police, why would they talk to a reporter who is ringing their bell with a camera and microphone? Yeah let old lady Smith tell the nice reporter all about the bad people on your block. That is the last thing she needs.

Now that’s not to say all neighbors are like that, some do get involved just not in the media if they’re smart.

Yeah that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

Should aging rockers know when to call it quits?

A popular riddle that is often posed upon and ferociously discussed amongst various circles of rock snobs and critics is the age-old question as to whether or not rock ‘n’ roll truly is dead. The answer, despite continual debate and verbal glove-slapping between the aforementioned parties, is no. Rock ‘n’ roll is not dead; it’s just getting really, really old. A more sensible question to mull over is whether or not aging rockers should give up and call it quits by the time they’re slamming warm milk before bed instead of liquor, and popping Viagra instead of amphetamines. Can you really put an expiration date on cool?
The idea of crotchety old men prancing around a stage and rocking out to songs that were popular 40 years ago isn’t exactly appealing to younger generations, but true art never shows its wrinkles. The Rolling Stones are case-in-point here. These guys have been rocking for over four decades! Mick Jagger (arguably the coolest old guy ever) is in his 60s, but he still jumps around in concert, kicking and screaming, like a 20-year-old, and is still the embodiment of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. With 2005’s A Bigger Bang, the Stones pick themselves up after some of the stumblings of their post-Tattoo You (1981) career, proving once and for all that a band with a combined age of nearly 250 can still go off pretty hard.
Former Beach Boy and surf-rock pioneer Brian Wilson, 64, released his long-awaited magnum opus SMiLE in late 2004, which had already gained a mythic status amongst fans after Wilson stopped its production in 1967 due to personal problems and growing tensions within the group. The album was hailed by critics and longtime fans as a masterpiece rivaling the Beach Boys’ best material and showcases Wilson as a virtuoso songwriter and arranger (as if we didn’t already know).
Wilson’s longtime friend and former artistic rival Paul McCartney, 64, (oh yeah, he was also in that band, the Beatles) released Chaos and Creation in the Backyard in 2005 to much acclaim. The album was extremely well-received, considered by many to be Sir Paul’s greatest album in years, and a throwback to his early solo work. McCartney, now at that magical age he so romantically glorified in 1967, seems to have reached a creative pinnacle in the twilight of his career. Now if only he would stop painting and focus on making more music as beautiful as this.
Bob Dylan just released his critically praised album Modern Times in August. The album marked the 65-year-old’s first number one record since Desire in 1976, making Mr. Zimmerman the oldest living person to have a record reach number one on the US Billboard charts. Ok, it’s no Highway 61 Revisited (1965) or Blonde on Blonde (1966), but what is, really? Dylan isn’t one to retrace his steps, and if he wanted to, he probably could go out and revolutionize rock ‘n’ roll all over again, but that just wouldn’t be cool.
By now, it’s probably safe to say that the Stones will never release another Exile on Main St. (1972), and it is unlikely that Brian Wilson and Paul McCartney will ever recapture the glory they attained in their respective 60s pop groups, but these geriatrics are all releasing career-rejuvenating albums in their golden years. With such rich histories to mine from, age isn’t a factor on quality, other than the fact that these guys learned from their past mistakes, and they know better than to repeat them. They’ll leave that to the amateurs.

Mike Affholder

Sampling in the Music Industry

One night, I sat down with some friends to watch one of those music awards ceremonies on MTV or VH1, not really expecting much out of it. As we all know, no award ceremony would be complete without a slew of performances from the “in” musicians of that time.

It got to this point in the ceremony, and one of those perfectly tan Hollywood women came out and announced that Kanye West would be performing. Personally, I’m not much of a hip-hop fan, so I took the opportunity to go get a snack. On my way back to the room, I heard a familiar horn line. I thought maybe someone had changed the channel, because to me, this sounded like something from a few decades ago. I looked at the TV and to my surprise, there stood Kanye, rapping over what I then realized was the famous horn line from Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up”.

Wait…what is Kanye West doing using Curtis Mayfield’s music in one of his songs? Last time I checked, 70’s funk typically doesn’t get spliced into 2006 rap music. I was immediately upset at the use of my least favorite music cop-out: sampling. As something that has been debated for years, is sampling a legitimate technique for musicians to use?

Legally, when musicians want to use the material of others, they have to wait the required amount of years after the death of the musician for it to be considered public domain, or pay fees to obtain permission if they are still alive. Even after this legal business is taken care of, there is still the issue of a musician using someone else’s material. So, does the annoyance of sampling go away when performers admit they’re doing it and “not stealing”? Not really.

Regardless of the admittance of sampling, the fact still remains that the music is not theirs. Even if there is legal admittance of the sampling, many fans don’t know the music they’re listening to came from someone else. It’s not as if every time Kanye does “Touch the Sky” (song where Curtis Mayfield is sampled) live, he starts it out with the accreditation of something like, “I’d like to give mad props to Curtis for letting me use his stuff. You’re the man!” So while Kanye West received praise for his originality and edge, he was really using the work of past ground-breakers like Curtis Mayfield and Ray Charles to win people over. This lacks integrity and this originality that he supposedly has.

Kanye West isn’t the only culprit. Tons of other musicians do the same thing. Public Enemy was guilty of looping track from The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”. Vanilla Ice was busted for ripping off Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure”. Both Danger Mouse and Jay-z faced criticism for their remixes of The Beatles’ “White Album”, some without granted permission.

Sure, not everyone considers this stealing. But do they really know what is original and what is sampled? If you consider some of it to be ok and some of it to be stealing, where do you draw a line? In an age where musical variety is present, there are many forms of media to create music and share it, and musicians are still creating new things every day, sampling should not be in use by serious musicians.

Too often, people confuse the easy-access to music with the ability to steal it. It is one thing to be influenced by a musician, but it is completely another to take their material, for whatever reason. If they really respect the musician as much as they say they do, they owe it to them and their fans to not steal their creations and to make their own music instead.

Isabella Carini

Nuclear Test Breeds Fear

I’m much too young to remember the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but the little that I do know is not good. Thousands of people were killed and not even from the initial impact of the bomb but from toxic radiation poisoning. Cities were destroyed. Something like this should never happen again.

Reports now confirm that the underground tests conducted in North Korea on Monday, October 9th were nuclear. Tests detected radioactive debris; however, it appears to be a relatively small nuclear test.

Yet, in light of this information, has the world done enough to combat North Korea?

No, initially President Bush called the nuclear test “unacceptable” and said it “deserved an immediate response by the United Nations Security Council” but appeared to do little else. Since when has Bush waited for the United Nations Security Council to take actions before?

Even congressional candidate Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania said, “Our country has become less safe.” Americans’ safety should be the first priority. Clearly, it wasn’t because it took until Saturday for the United Nations Security Council to unanimously approve Resolution 1718.

Although well intentioned, Resolution 1718 should have been instituted sooner. There have been signs of possible nuclear weapons since 1998 when North Korea launched a missile over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean.

Instead of killing the hornet before it’s allowed to sting, the world and President Bush just swatted it away. Several times North Korea has been nothing more than bribed to stop their nuclear weapons program. Aid has been offered to North Korea in 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2005.

Perhaps the stupidest form of aid that could have been given to North Korea was the two light-water nuclear reactors they were given in December of 1999. There’s nothing like shooting ourselves in the foot.

North Korea even admitted to having nuclear weapons in February of 2005 but nothing was done then. Maybe too much attention was placed on Saddam. Iraq didn’t even have any weapons of mass destruction and we went in after them.

I’m not saying that we should start a war with North Korea; we can’t even finish the one we started. But something needed to be done long before now. The Resolution would have been an excellent idea five years ago. Now something more needs to be done. What? I’m not sure but certainly not another war.

The Resolution now requires cargo going in and out of North Korea to be searched for prohibited items that could be used as weapons of mass destruction—that includes nuclear ones. The trade of high end military equipment and material with United Nation members is also forbidden.

Most importantly Resolution 1718 requires that Pyongyang not conduct further nuclear tests or launch ballistic missiles and demands that North Korea abandon all nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the country wants “peace but is not afraid of war.” What’s even scarier is that North Korea views the United Nations Security Council sanctions—a.k.a. the Resolution that was supposed to make us feel safe—as a “declaration of war.”

If the first test weren’t enough, it now looks like North Korea is planning a second nuclear test, according to U.S. officials,

Scared yet? Perhaps you will be when you see other countries responses. Australia won’t even let North Korean ships enter their ports. China, North Korea’s number one trade partner, is now inspecting trucks on their shared boarder even after Chinese United Nations Ambassador Wang Guangya said they would not be carrying out inspections because they believed it would lead to “negative consequences.”

What could be a more negative consequence than Kim Jong Il and his million-man army possessing nuclear weapons? Discernibly, China wised up to this and made the correct decision.

I don’t care what nation it is, but any one with the aptitude to make a city on the western sea board of the United States into Hiroshima or Nagasaki is something to fear.

With out a doubt the world did not do enough soon enough to combat North Korea. For now, all I can do is hope that North Korea will either comply with the sanctions placed on them by the United Nations or find some peaceful way to work the situation out.

Sexism for Teens

Just when you thought television couldn’t get any worse, The CW network (formerly the WB and home of shows like America’s Next Top Model) announces that it will air a new reality series “The Search for the Next Pussycat Doll”. Viewers, we have a problem.

When CBS and the WB network publicly merged in May to form the teen-targeted CW, their advertising team spent the summer bombarding viewers with ad after ad for the “new” network. Yet the program lineup was exactly the same and only two (unsuccessful) new shows were added. Their slogan “Free to be… (insert catchy word here)” was plastered on billboards as far as the eye can see.

With few exceptions, programming on The CW is primarily made up of reality series and dramas that are targeted at teenagers. However, the portrayals of teen life and the messages they are sending to actual teens have the potential to be very harmful- especially for young women. Heavy hitters like America’s Next Top Model, One Tree Hill and the WWE Friday Night Smackdown! consistently feature hyper-sexualized female images, which become ingrained in the minds of young women and girls as the ideal. Perhaps the network’s slogan should have been “Free to be misogynistic”.

And, as if teen girls didn’t have enough media telling them how women are supposed to look and act, The CW puts another nail in the feminist coffin with Pussycat Doll. The group started as a rather impressive modern-day burlesque but has now given into ‘The Man’ with sex-charged songs about getting the guy and dissing other women. Do you think the FCC will only allow this during “safe harbor” hours? I can only imagine how many fourteen-year-old girls will be asking Santa for fishnet stockings and lace garter belts this holiday season.

But this has always been a problem, hasn’t it? Women have been portrayed merely as sexualized objects by our society since before most of us were born. Now you turn on the television or look through a magazine rack and it’s as if the feminist movement(s) never happened. But the producers of these images would have us believe that Cosmo and Tyra Banks are crusaders for a new feminism, where being a sex kitten is somehow liberating.

Yet this is entertainment, and the demand for such programming and other media is high. The shows mentioned throughout this column have a high fan base because they provide entertainment value. Simply put, we can’t help ourselves. Even those with a discerning eye get sucked in, helplessly watching the slow-motion train wreck- either to re-affirm their principles or to satisfy the part of their sub-conscious that really enjoys watching women battle on the catwalk.

The problem is that our American values are hideously out of whack. As a nation and also as women, we are highly segregated by race, class and sex (to name a few) – but our media shows us the way to transcend all of those things: beauty.

To struggle for women to gain status in our society has been perverted by stereotypical media images of what an “acceptable” woman is. To have an elevated status, not only do you have to have intelligence and wit, but you have to act like one of the boys, too- in a low cut blouse and spike heels. In the end, the value is placed on physical attributes- this is how we are to access power.

Most teen girls are none the wiser, yet they are the audience that is bombarded by these images and ideals the most. Shows like Top Model or Pussycat Dolls are seen as a fun glimpse into a more glamorous lifestyle, but the messages behind them go unnoticed. Herein lays the danger, because as the messages become indoctrinated into their thoughts and views, the vicious cycle of female repression thickens and is that much harder to break.

Media outlets have a social responsibility to provide women and girls with something other than blatant stereotypes wrapped in glossy packages. However, and this is a big however, we as women have an even greater responsibility to ourselves. Watch whatever you want. Read Cosmo religiously if it turns you on, but do so with a critical eye. Recognize the messages being fed to you and don’t be content to passively consume! How else will we end our exploitation?

Erin Petersen

The Day the Boob Tube Died

In the post-apocalyptic after Y2K, television viewers had to look somewhere for guidance. Guidance is a subjective term, and in this case, it took the form of an overweight middle-aged homosexual naked man named Richard Hatch. Reality television had arrived, striving to tear apart the glorious television industry and to rape television viewers of good taste.

Sure, Survivor was a shot in the arm that networks needed. Network television at the turn of the century had been lacking in originality, and viewers were eager to see something new and creative. Six years later, and the creators are really grasping for straws; they are relying on mere shock value to keep an audience.

Exploitation has always been an American pastime. Remember that time you saw a sucker getting pulled over, while you cruised right by him with a smug sense of satisfaction? This is the feeling the producers want to capture through their programming of reality television.

Several shows exhibit this quality; placing contestants in very uncomfortable positions to watch them squirm under the pressure of their “real” situation. It is akin to following an ant with a magnifying glass, or dropping a slug into a maze made of salt. Sure it may be cruel, and barbaric, but it is so entertaining!

But people want to be entertained. After all, that is the main purpose of television, right? Not entirely. From a market perspective, businesses absolutely love reality television. Quick and cheap to produce, easy to sell product placement spots, and it brings in the ratings. From a public sphere perspective that is an entirely different story.

Reality television provides a disposable form of entertainment that is both meaningless and mindless. Networks such as HBO and Showtime have proven thought-provoking shows can get high ratings and great.

Why aren’t the ratings nearly as high as big network driven reality shows? Network television is free at the cost of advertisements and lesser quality content.

Cable television tries to add a little bit of thought to reality programs, but it is forced. In a recent episode of Thirty Days, Morgan Spurlock placed a Minuteman (militia border patrol) into the household of illegal immigrants for thirty days.

This is the type of exploitation that the show promises and delivers every week. It also tries to teach a cheesy lesson to the contestant that is lost in translation. The show mainly covers the fights between opposing sides.

Why do only certain types of people show up in The Real World? Not because they are hip and trendy, but because their personalities will clash. MTV relies upon arguments to bring in ratings.

If simply watching the show was not enough proof, they began a spin-off appropriately titled The Gauntlet, which features only the most argumentative characters from past seasons pitted against each other.

But have conflicts in reality television come too far? Does this have any effect on real life? Ask Ralf Panitz, who, in 2002, murdered his ex-wife immediately after she revealed a secret she had on The Jerry Springer Show. While the drama is often emphasized via edits and music-- the hate is often real.

On the lighter side of things, how can somebody not love a show called Amish in the City? Taking strong-willed Amish children outside of their element and subjecting them to the horror that is a public high school must be good television!

Or how about the visual holocaust that was The Anna Nicole Show? Watching an overweight millionaire spend time all day eating donuts and impersonating Marilyn Monroe gets old quite fast.

Watch the credits of a reality show, and you will notice that there are numerous writers employed. I don’t know about you, but I always employ a writer in my every day real life. If you are going to have writers, leave the acting to professionals.

Finally the trend seems to be dieing down, with better shows starting to appear during primetime. Lost, The Office, House, Heroes, and Ugly Betty are all new free-to-air shows that have exhibited more than just shock value. These are genuinely good shows that entertain, while also provoke thought. With luck, this trend will continue until reality shows are only shown on cable to the hardcore watchers.

If that does not happen, I propose that reality television shows are systematically wiped off the airwaves indefinitely. Simply head to an In-N-Out Burger around Los Angeles and find a washed up celebrity from years gone by. Stick him in a weekly ‘special’ as the host, and have viewers call in to vote for their least favorite show. The following week, in an overly dramatic and highly publicized ceremony, the show receiving the most votes will be pulled from television. That can’t miss…

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Is FreakFest on State Street a good idea?

Every year in Madison, on State Street, crowds gather to celebrate Halloween. This tradition has been an annual nightmare for Madison. However, it’s not caused by ghosts and goblins.

The amount of personal injuries and property damage that occurred during past celebrations is outrageous. Something needs to be done to prevent the college drunks from being as careless as pervious years.

I have had enough; I couldn’t even enjoy Halloween last year. While walking on State Street, I nearly received my own personal injury.

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz has had enough too. He doesn’t want things to escalate the way they have been. Using a plan he helped organize, Madison may have a solution for its annual problems. I might even enjoy Halloween this year!

The Mayors plan will make State Street much more controlled. The area will be fenced in and a fee of $5 will be charged for admittance.

This is a good idea because it will allow Madison’s Halloween to be organized and controlled. However, it still sounds like it will be hard to get the crowds to disperse. Fifty thousand people will be forced to leave State Street at 2a.m.

This problem could be addressed by changing a few state laws. The mayor’s idea should be tried, with one slight change. If bar time was extended to 5a.m., the population of the party would be able to slowly disperse throughout the night.

The Halloween celebrations have become to Madison what Mardi Gras is to New Orleans. Students from colleges statewide and beyond gather for fun and not to cause trouble. But the fact remains that many of them do cause trouble.

For now, Cieslewicz’s plan will, hopefully, prevent personal injuries and property damage. The State Street area will be more controlled if someone does get out of hand security can stop them much quicker.

Hopefully, pepper spray and the use of protective gear will be avoided. This is a supposed to be a celebration not a riot. The two should not get mixed up because a bunch of drunken hooligans don’t know how to choose right from wrong.

The new plan will include a totally new atmosphere for the Halloween celebration. The event will be officially called “Freakfest on State Street.”

A new student group has been created by the Mayor called HAC: the Halloween Action Committee. This committee will help plan a safer event with the Mayor.

It is a good an idea to use students as part of the planning for this year’s celebration. This way both the students and the Mayor get what they want.

Students Tom Wangard and Bradon Sivret have been working with Cieslewicz to make the weekend event appeal to students but at the same time be safe.

It may take a while to get used to but the admittance fee will contribute to the huge expenses Madison endeavors every Halloween. Hopefully, this year won’t cost the city a large amount of valuable tax dollars.

The city shouldn’t be totally responsible for the bill. Cover charges are pretty common when going out now. To enter it’s only going to be a measly 5 dollars, the price of a Jager bomb.

A small price to provide a safe night that would be much easier to enjoy. It’s kind of hard to celebrate with a bunch of rowdy, violent drunks standing in the way.

Another big change for State Street will be the added food vendors and live music stages. This added feature is good because it will make Freakfast on State Street not just about alcohol.

To help preserve safety only fifty thousand tickets will be sold for this event. With this limited number the crowd will be easier to control. In the past, crowds have been estimated to more than double that number.

The best feature of the fence will be its ability to control the crowd. Upon admittance patrons will be searched and prohibited from bringing in alcohol beverages.

This will help keep minors from bringing in such items. The ban is not to make money, it’s to maintain control.

In the past, many underage students roamed State Street with open alcohol containers. Underage drinking, during pervious events, has been known to cause street violence and vandalism.

Many youth, in the past, have been detained for creating disturbances during the Halloween event were found to be heavily intoxicated.

This may be the root to the problem every Halloween in Madison. The mayor’s plan will definitely be effective in solving this problem on State Street.

Another valuable quality of the fence will be that people will not be allowed to bring in glass bottles.

Glass bottles have been a problem for State Street. They are dangerous in the wrong hands. My friend, Eric, got pelted in the head with a glass bottle.
He was knocked out cold and had to be treated in the hospital for swelling on his head.

Conversely, many students still don’t support the fence. They say it could create problems.

A major concern is the crowd’s options in an emergency. Citizens, on State Street, believe many people won’t be able to get out. It is also assumed that emergency crews won’t be able to get in.

People have a right to be concerned; a fenced area could do nothing but trap people inside.

However, Cieslewicz is also concerned about the safety of patrons during the event.
The fence will feature many entrance and exits. The city would be liable if it trapped fifty thousand people inside a fence and an emergency broke out.

These plans are definitely going to make the fenced in area safer and will create less commotion. People won’t be limited to passing through one entrance or exit.

This could also help break up the large crowd when the events over. Everybody won’t be leaving from the same exit. All in all, the fenced in area has more positives then negatives.

Creating Freak Fest on State Street, right now, is the best way for the city to meet their goals. Working with students will help make the event more appealing and keep its attraction.

Next year’s plan could be modified if needed, learning from this year. But securing the area may be the best decision the Mayor and the committee made.

Ultimately, the new organized event will most likely prevent the large amounts of pepper spray used and would allow officers to work without protective gear.

This goal is the city needs to meet. The Mayor doesn’t want a repeat of the pervious years. That is why he is so concerned.

I know that I wasn’t comfortable walking by all the police sporting protective gear. They whole time, I wondered if they would mistake me for one of the students causing trouble.

Many students felt anger at the city when they first heard news that Halloween would be organized this year.

They claim that their going to boycott it and go somewhere else. Oblivious to how serious this delinquent behavior has gotten.

Every year, more students act like an angry mob. They attack people, destroy buildings and make other havoc in the city. This isn’t funny it’s distasteful.

These actions cost Madison taxpayers too much money. That is why the event is going to be controlled this year.

There should be respect and an understanding that this is something that shouldn’t occur. The line has been drawn and the city has had enough.

Halloween has been annual a nightmare in the past. Organizing the event is the best way to accomplish safety goals.

Hopefully, the event will be transformed into a paradise for students. Allowing them to celebrate the holiday and have fun.

Last years chaos destroyed my fun. I’m sure all the pervious incidents destroy others enjoyment as well.

I stand with anticipation, the live music sounds like a nice addition to the event. And I can enjoy it without feeling unsafe.

Andrew Olejnik

The Only Serial Killer in La Crosse is Binge Drinking

The October 2nd discovery of UW-La Crosse (UW-L) student Luke Homan’s body in the Mississippi River - the eighth body found there since 1997 - has reignited old rumors of a serial killer preying on drunken male students in La Crosse.

All facts considered - the only serial killer in La Crosse is binge drinking, which is defined as having five or more drinks in a couple hours.

As a former student of UW-L, I know the severity and frequency of binge drinking is outrageous in La Crosse. The city’s biggest annual festival is Oktoberfest, which is basically a city-wide drinking celebration.

I was in La Crosse for the first weekend of Oktoberfest this year – the same weekend Homan disappeared. The city was so over-crowded that it was difficult to find your way even if you were sober and have lived in La Crosse for years.

Never have I tasted drinks so strong that I’ve questioned whether or not the bartender forgot to put the Coke in my rum and Coke than during this visit.

With the combination of exceedingly strong drinks, over-crowded bars with bartenders catering to several people at once, and a having a cold, swift river literally only blocks away from the bars and nightclubs, it’s no wonder how even a man Homan’s size – 6’3, 205 lbs – got so intoxicated that he lost his way, wandered to the river, and drowned.

The same follows with the other drowning deaths. Although they did not occur during Oktoberfest weekend, every victim was last seen drinking and partying downtown before they disappeared.

Homan’s death and the seven preceding deaths are the work of intoxication, not a serial killer.

Those who believe the rumors are ignoring the cold, hard facts. Police have found absolutely no evidence to suggest a serial killer is behind the drownings in La Crosse. In each case, there are no markers of foul play or pre-death trauma.

What is present in every case though is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .20 and above. Wisconsin defines legal intoxication for purposes of driving as having a BAC of 0.08 or greater, in most cases. Even a BAC of 0.05 may impair driving.

Homan’s preliminary BAC was .32 – four times the legal standard of intoxication. The last victim before Homan, 21-year-old UW-L student Jared Dion, had a BAC of .289 when his body was recovered from the river in 2004.

While even acknowledging the consistency of highly elevated blood alcohol levels in each victim, supporters of the serial killer theory say that the physical similarities are more than just a coincidence.

In an online Facebook group, “La Crosse ‘drownings’…Time to Take Action,” a student cited some similarities between the victims as “all amazing athletes, built, and truly amazing guys.”

This evidence is in no way condemning. UW-L is known for athletics. Almost everyone I met while attending UW-L was an athlete or participated in sports in some way. The fact that the victims were all athletes isn’t surprising.

The group’s creator, Stacey Semler, who personally knew Dion, does not believe that the victims would be “stupid” enough to wander off and fall into the river.

“We’ve all experienced the college life,” Semler said. “…drinking til we don’t remember what we did all night…but we’re not stupid…and neither were they.”

The question is not whether the victims were “stupid.” No matter how intelligent a person is, a BAC of .20 or higher greatly impairs judgment, movement, and sense of direction, among other things. A sober person wouldn’t just fall into the river unless they were extremely clumsy, but a very drunk person easily could.

Semler’s argument only proves the point that college students drink excessively, even to the point where they “don’t remember” what they did all night. If “we’ve all” experienced this, then it is very likely that the victims drank so much that they too were in a state of not knowing what they were doing.

Just last week, police found a 22-year-old UW-L student with a BAC of .19 in Riverside Park, according to an article published in the La Crosse Tribune. The man told police he was going home and was intoxicated enough to say that he lived north of the park, when he actually lived east.

The eight drowning victims all had a BAC higher than this man, proving that even if they were familiar with the town, their sense of direction would be blurred, just as his was. Riverside Park is only a small walk from downtown La Crosse night life, so ending up there after a night of heavy drinking is understandable when you’re so intoxicated you don’t know where you’re going.

While occurrences of drowning are more prevalent in La Crosse than other college towns with large bodies of water, like Madison, there is one great difference between the cities that explains this.

As UW-L professors Betsy Morgan and Kim Vogt pointed out in an open letter to students following Dion’s death in 2004, Madison has a lake, La Crosse has a flowing river.

When you jump into a lake from the shore, you hit the sandy bottom. When you jump into the Mississippi River, you’re jumping into 18 feet of water.

The real problem in La Crosse is not a serial killer but rather the community’s denial that it has a drinking problem. It’s easier to place blame on someone else, than it is to place blame on yourself.

College kids will drink. There is no stopping that. But until La Crosse “sobers up” a bit and admits the fact that it has a serious drinking problem instead of blaming tragedies on a non-existent serial killer, students will continue to face the dangers of binge drinking near a deadly river.

Bush administration responsible for North Korean nuclear tests

Some situations, when not dealt with properly, can come back to haunt you.

When North Korea tested a nuclear weapon last Monday morning, the ominous specter of Kim Jong Il had to be hovering around in the thoughts of President Bush and his administration.

Of course, the Bush administration was too busy dealing with Iraq to really pay attention to North Korea. However, Kim Jong Il didn’t want to be ignored and sure had an emphatic way of showing it.

The U.S. has known about North Korea’s attempts at making nuclear weapons since the 1980s. With the 1994 Agreed Framework, the Clinton administration secured a freeze of capital city Pyongyang’s plutonium program.

However, after a series of breakings with the Agreed Framework, including the suspension of shipments of heavy fuel oil in early 2003 promised under the agreement, North Korea restarted a major reactor at Yongbyon and resumed producing plutonium.

Then, on Oct. 9, a perceived threat became a reality as North Korea tested a nuclear bomb in defiance of the United States.

That explosion must have coincided with an explosion of guilt within the Bush administration for failing to deal with North Korea properly.

Our harsh diplomatic separation from North Korea began after the 9/11 attacks when President Bush decreed North Korea as part of the “axis of evil,” along with Iraq and Iran, in his 2002 State of the Union speech.

While Il is certainly one despicable little man, putting his regime in the category of the “axis of evil” was a bad move for foreign policy. The Bush administration failed to properly engage the country by implementing North Korea into the “antiterror” strategy and hurt relations with South Korea who resented this designation.

From this point on our relationship with North Korea went from bad to worse as our administration seemingly forgot diplomacy.

During the six-way talks between the United States, North Korea, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea in August of 2003, our Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly was almost impervious to negotiation.

In response, Kim Jong Il proclaimed that if the United States was not willing to negotiate with North Korea it would have “no choice but to declare its possession of nuclear weapons” and “conduct a nuclear weapons test.”

These kinds of threats from Il became common occurrences, yet they were met with a hawkish attitude by the Bush administration.

The administration imposed economic sanctions and threatened North Korea, which did nothing to better the international crisis. These actions lent themselves to the insane notion that threatening an isolated country with nuclear capabilities was going to somehow deter it from using them.

Although the 1994 Agreed Framework was successful in freezing North Korea’s nuclear program at that time, it was abandoned by the Bush administration.

According to the agreement, light water reactor power plants were scheduled to be built in 2003 as a replacement for North Korea’s nuclear power plants, but the foundations for these plants were not started until late 2002. Similarly, heavy fuel oil promised in the accordance was often delivered behind schedule.

The Bush administration’s disregard for this agreement, in turn, led to a similar disregard by North Korea as it began to reopen the reactors frozen under the 1994 Agreed Framework.

The war in Iraq is another big factor to consider when looking at the current North Korean crisis. The billions of dollars invested in the war along with the attention that it has garnered took away from what should have been the United State’s main focus all along, North Korea.

With so much concentration put upon what is increasingly becoming a failing war, it is no wonder Kim Jong Il did what he did. The United States was too busy with Iraq to soundly work together with North Korea in order to avoid serious conflict.

It seems very clear that Kim Jong Il’s testing of a nuclear bomb last Monday was more an attempt to secure his regime than to start a nuclear war. If the Bush administration would have been more diplomatic in clearing up this insecurity, there is a large possibility that we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Of course, people are always going to blame Clinton, but in this situation there is no merit in doing so.

Sure he didn’t get Bin Laden when he had the chance, but it is the 1994 Agreed Framework that kept our relationship with North Korea stable enough as to avoid our current predicament.

The Bush administration failed in its chance to prevent the crisis that is now haunting its member’s dreams. By not taking the proper diplomatic action, the administration has thwarted us into a very bleak and nuclear oriented era.

One has to wonder if the failures of the Bush administration will haunt future generations. Will the offspring of tomorrow grow up in a world of nuclear aggression? It is possible, but there is still hope.

Negotiating with North Korea may seem far-fetched at this point, but it is certainly not. It is of thorough importance that more diplomatic action is taken in order for us to avoid even further international risks.

Why 15-year-old girls are more trustworthy than Congress

Earlier this month, Rep. Ray LaHood (R-Illinois) made a suggestion on how to make sure an event like Foleygate never happens again. In LaHood’s view, the best way to prevent our elected representatives from sending sexually explicit instant messages to 16 year-old congressional pages is to eliminate the page program. While some people have taken him to task for this, I applaud LaHood for being the only one in Washington with the foresight to address this problem with a real solution. America’s elected leaders have no business talking to, influencing or interacting with our kids.

LaHood’s critics say that he’s unnecessarily pessimistic and that he’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. After all, they say, there are 435 members of the US House of Representatives. Surely not all of them will send your children instant messages asking them about the specifics of their white pants. But if there was a baby sitting agency with, say, 435 employees and one of them was caught trying to get into your child’s bedroom drunk, you probably wouldn’t want to hire them again. The same applies here.

But surely the US House of Representatives can’t be compared to a baby sitting company. I realize that may have been an unfair and derogatory comparison for baby sitting agencies and I apologize. Most baby-sitters in my experience have been good, honest people who are just trying to earn some money. Some of the more enterprising ones can even turn baby-sitting into a full-time career. The United States Congress, on the other hand, is an entity comprised of some of the most prominent bird-brains our country has to offer. They’re far less trustworthy than the average baby sitter.

Think about it. If you were looking to hire a teenage girl from the neighborhood as a baby sitter for your family, you can run them through a strenuous interview process. You have to know that you can trust them with your children and your house. If you don’t think one candidate sounds reliable, you have a wealth of other choices: other teenagers from the neighborhood, relatives, even the pone book. If you catch her hanging out with friends you don’t approve of or sneaking her boyfriend into your house when you’re not away, you can choose to never hire her again.

Compare that to our elected officials. If you don’t like your representative, you only have one other person to choose from, and you have to wait two years to tell them that, and even then it might not matter. And if you find them hanging out with unsavory characters, like lobbyists or other elected officials, there’s not much you can do about it. And though the neighbor girl watching your kids would get in trouble for it, Congressmen can invite 16-year-old boys over as much as they want and don’t even get yelled at by their Speaker.

And that’s why Mr. LaHood is right. He just had the guts to call out the page program for what it is: glorified babysitting. He knows that if the House was a baby sitting company, it would be the worst one ever. And shutting down the page program is the only way the parents of these kids are going to wake up and send their kids to do something more productive; like work at a car wash or flip burgers at Wendy’s. What kind of parent willingly sends their child off to be a Congressional page anyway? Forcing your child to spend a muggy summer in a city that was built on a swamp working for a bunch of career slackers who are too incompetent to get real jobs should automatically earn you “Worst Parent of the Year” consideration. Even if your child doesn’t wind up having to see their instant messages spilled out all over the news, they might still come back with new and frightening ideas. Like forgoing their plans to be a janitor or short-order cook for something shameful like running for public office.

In short, ending the page program makes sense for all parties involved. Kids can spend their summers doing important things that will give them the practical skills they need to succeed in the real world, like eating mini pretzels in front of the computer screen. Parents can feel assured knowing that their 16-year-olds are only having sex with other 16-year-olds in the backseats of their Honda Civics. And our elected representatives can continue screwing voters instead of voters’ teenage kids.

Gay marriage okay?

So I was sitting at lunch with my mom the other day and we got on the topic of how different generations have a hard time grasping concepts that may come to another generation naturally.

One of these things is homosexuality. It seems to be a lot more accepted in my generation than in others. Should it be? Should homosexuality be accepted these days?

As we all know, we have some elections coming up on November 7th. Besides voting between two equally lovely and competent governors, you’ll also have the option of voting on Wisconsin’s gay marriage ban. I highly recommend you take the opportunity to do so.

First of all, it makes me sad that we even need to vote on this and that the issue hasn’t even come up until now. It’s not even an issue, it’s common sense. Why would anyone not be allowed to get married? It seems a little silly to me that there’s even a question on whether or not homosexuals should get married.

Better yet, it seems silly to me that I’m even posing the question of whether or not homosexuality should be accepted. Why is it even a question? - Because it’s not accepted in the majority of people by any means. If it was, we wouldn’t be having this vote.

I’m sure some of us can remember the brutal beating of Matthew Shepherd in Wyoming in 1998. That very same year, Will & Grace premiered on NBC. So why is it okay to watch homosexuality on television but not be anywhere near homosexuals?

This baffles me and I will never be able to understand why gay people are any different from me. They’re not. So why are they being treated that way? - Because they’re not accepted.

The Fair Wisconsin vote certainly wouldn’t make things fair if you vote yes. According to the actual text:
"Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state. A legal status identical or substantially similar to that of marriage for unmarried individuals shall not be valid or recognized in this state."
This means that the amendment would not only ban gay marriages, but also civil unions, which are currently legal. It would take away all the rights a gay couple could ever have – why is that okay?

Wisconsin is a leader in medical research out of Madison, especially stem cell research. So why don’t we be one of the first states in the nation to reject this constitutional ban on gay unions? Sadly, eleven states passed bans in November 2004 and we can’t let Wisconsin be a follower of something so wrong. We need to be a leader of something just and fair.

We’ve all heard the argument that homosexuality is a sin. We don’t prosecute child molesters because it’s a sin do we? We do it because we know it’s wrong. We don’t let murderers out of jail because they’re sins were forgiven do we? They get out early for good behavior or paroled early on a daily basis.

We don’t base other laws in the government on religion, why start now? Wisconsin needs to keep a distinct separation between church and state and see people for who they are – just people.

Homosexual people are no different than anyone else. We are all human beings and deserve all the rights to be treated like one.

By banning gay marriages and civil unions, Wisconsin will be taking a step back in time. We don’t need another civil rights movement, let’s continue to use what we learned then and apply it now – the situations are no different.

If this amendment gets passed, there is bound to be many protests. Even worse, many people will leave the state for somewhere more accepting and fair, like homosexual teachers and professors who won’t get benefits in Wisconsin.

I’ve addressed a lot of the cons here for one big reason – I see no pros. What benefits could possibly come from banning a large group of the population from something everyone else is allowed to do? How could that possibly make Wisconsin a better place?

Not only is this gay marriage ban a problem on the surface, but it goes much deeper. Imagine you are in a serious relationship and your partner gets in a fatal car accident. They’re okay but in serious condition, so of course you are concerned and head for the hospital.

Wait, you can’t see your partner, nor are you allowed any information on how they’re doing. Your relationship is not legally recognized or accepted. Would you be annoyed, frustrated, and angry? Would you feel helpless, like you were being treated unfairly?

We need to put an end to the terms “unaccepted” and “unfair” and “unjust”. We need to put an end to discrimination once and for all. And we absolutely need to make our generation known for being tolerant. Make Wisconsin a fair Wisconsin by voting no on November 7th.

Clinton's Actions Retroactively Threaten U.S./World Security

In alarming world news North Korea claims to possess and to have tested a nuclear bomb. Americans who are still shaken from the failures which led to the terrorist attacks of 9-11 are looking to point their red, white and blue fingers.

Who could be to blame for North Korea's newly-developed nuclear ability? Perhaps former presidents or the office of national security. Maybe certain M*A*S*H doctors whose anti-American ideology decisively led to U.S. troop withdrawal from the Korean conflict in 1951.

Recently Republican Senator John McCain implicated former President Bill Clinton's foreign policy which he claims allowed North Korea to develop nuclear weapons. The “liberal media” has given full coverage to this statement as would be expected with the midterm elections approaching. McCain is not actually up for reelection in the senate until 2010 making him a safe candidate to attack the former president.

Could this be a scare tactic by the Republicans trying to wash their hands of any administrative responsibility, or is Clinton solely responsible for yet another American disaster?

Everyone in America knows that Bill Clinton ignored presidential daily briefs that clearly predicted the events of 9-11, but this new evidence may expose him as the single person who is responsible for allowing North Korea to obtain nuclear weapons.

Massive spending on national security and constant attention to foreign threats since 9-11 weren't able to stop North Korea from developing these weapons. Events of the past leading up to North Korea's newfound power will show how anyone with any interest in or knowledge of national security could have stopped it from happening.

Americans now know that North Korea has developed the ability to build nuclear weapons. These nuclear weapons, like any nuclear weapons, would not be possible without the ability to enrich uranium. Nuclear reactors produce enriched uranium.

Somehow North Korea gained access to the nuclear reactors which they used to enrich their uranium.

In 1994 Bill Clinton approved a measure allowing North Korea to receive nuclear technology in exchange for abandoning their nuclear weapons program. In 2000, while Clinton was still president, Donald Rumsfeld sat on the board of the company which provided North Korea with two light water nuclear reactors capable of enriching uranium. One year later Rumsfeld became Secretary of Defense.

In 2006 North Korea developed its first nuclear weapon joining an elite group which includes the U.S., the U.K., France, China, India and Pakistan.

The case is clear. Bill Clinton must have told the future Secretary of Defense of the United States of America to make sure North Korea, or as Clinton was known to call it, “Little America,” had fully functional uranium enriching reactors because they were a trustworthy ally of the U.S.

Rumsfeld, an honorable patriot, always does what the President deems best for America without a second thought. Rumsfeld seems to feel that any thought independent of government is unamerican.

It has also been said that in the early 1980's Bill Clinton told Donald Rumsfeld, who at the time was the U.S. Middle East Envoy, to push the State Department to approve the sale of military-type helicopters to Iraq by American companies. These helicopters turned out to be the same helicopters suspected by U.S. intelligence of being used to gas the Kurds in 1988.

Note: The 1988 gassing of the Kurds was the fourth and final justification for the Iraq war after 9-11 links, nuclear/chemical weapons, and torture were either proved untrue or discounted by U.S. actions in the same prisons Saddam Hussein used for torture. No children were harmed in the making of this war.

Donald Rumsfeld has been the U.S. Secretary of Defense for almost six years (eight if one counts the two years he served that position under President Ford in the mid-1970's). No reasonable person could have expected him to foresee a problem with North Korea. After all, he was still dealing with Clinton's mess in Iraq, which was he called a “smoking gun” threat to the U.S. Not to mention, according to Rumsfeld, Iraq had links to 9-11, not North Korea.

Rumsfeld must have forgotten that the 1080's Governor of Arkansas only told him to encourage the sale of gas-bomb-dropping helicopters to Iraq, and that the nuclear technology that Clinton made him get paid to sell nuclear technology to North Korea.

If Bill Clinton's charisma didn't have such a strong hold over one of the most brilliant defenders of this nation America wouldn't have to deal with these problems. It has been especially difficult to protect America since the Secretary of Defense's job, as it was officially redefined by President Clinton in 2001, is to exploit national tragedies, disregard all facts, and to ignore any actual threat to national security.

Free Laptops for All U.S. Students

Libya gets it.

In a world dominated by high tech powerhouses, Libya has stepped to the forefront of education with its decision to provide $100 Linux based laptops to all of its 1.2 million schoolchildren. Libya may also help pay for laptops in poor African nations such as Chad, Niger and Rwanda.

Such a bold statement by a country famously known as a world malcontent shows that Libya understands that access technology is a crucial component in today’s educational programs.

Ironically, the laptops being purchased by Libya are developed and marketed by an organization located in a country that doesn’t get it: the United States.

Living in the world’s largest superpower, one has to wonder why the U.S. has not developed a strategy to put a computer in the hands of every student in this country.

According to the U.S. Department of Education National Education Technology Plan 2004, there are approximately 50 million students in the U.S. Of those students, 90 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 17 use computers.

Using these numbers, simple grade school math illustrates that approximately 5 million students do not use computers regularly. In a country with the educational mantra “No Child Left Behind,” it appears as though children are quickly being left behind in our technology dependent world.

It’s sad to think that children located down the street from the Delaware based non-profit group One Laptop Per Child may not have the same technological advantages given to children who live in a country that is known for supporting terrorism and producing weapons of mass destruction.

A mere $100 could open up a world of educational opportunities for students in the U.S. The only credible reason for the delay in initiating such a program in the U.S. is that it would cost approximately $5 billion dollars to provide every student with their own laptop.

While that figure may cause some people to wring their hands and mutter about big government spending, there is another option that would prove to be much cheaper and more beneficial to U.S. students.

The laptops being purchased by Libya are, in essence, capable of doing little else than accessing the Internet. They are a valuable educational tool, for sure. However, hands on experience with a decent computer that runs Windows and other modern applications would be an even better option.

According to Midwest Computer Recyclers, approximately 500 million computers will be discarded in 2007. While these computers are too old for business purposes, many of them are still useable and could be put to good use in the hands of a student.

Most organizations struggle with the disposal of their retired computer equipment. Quite often companies must pay for their old computers equipment to be taken away for recycling. Most organizations would jump at the chance to eliminate this expense.

One obvious solution would be to create a federal program to obtain retired computer equipment from the business sector and provide it to students free of charge.

This scenario provides corporations with an inexpensive way to discard their old computer equipment while giving students valuable hands on experience with a real computer. Everyone wins.

Such a program is not a new idea. Canada implemented a similar program called Computers for Schools. This program supplies approximately 25% of the computers used in Canadian schools each year. Only 2% of the computers in U.S. schools are recycled in this manner.

Despite hearing how no child in the U.S. will be left behind, it’s obvious that children without regular access to computers are going to be ill equipped to handle the technical demands of our society.

Libya gets it. Now it’s time for America to get it.

After I graduated from Brookfield Central High School and came to UWM, I noticed something about the majority of the forty or so kids from my graduating class that also came to UWM: they, by enlarge, weren’t friendly. When I would walk past one of them on campus, most of them would either look away to avoid eye contact, or if our eyes had already met, they’d give the obligatory half-smile, or the unenthusiastic “hey” before quickly looking away.

But one of my ex-classmates stood out to me. In fact, it was the ex-quarterback, popular, “hot guy,” the one you’d expect to be cockier than the rest. Not him. Even though we were nothing more than acquaintances in high school, he would always make a point to stop and chat when he’d see me around campus or in the dorms. He went beyond asking the standard “how are you?” question, and asked me questions about my classes, my social life, and anything else. And what meant the most is I could tell he was genuinely interested in hearing my answers.

I always looked forward to running into him. Even though I didn’t know him very well personally, he always brightened my day. He amazed me with how friendly he was, taking time out of his schedule to chat with someone he barely knew. And I was sure I was just one of many Brookfield Central alums he’d stop and chat with.

After sophomore year of college, he transferred to UW-La Crosse, where my brother is a student. My brother reported similar stories of running into him on campus. He would ride a bike to class, and whenever he’d pass my brother, who was always on foot, he would slow down and ride his bike slowly next to him. He would chat with him the entire way to campus – even when he was running late for class.

He was Luke Homan, the UW-La Crosse student whose body was found in the Mississippi River on October 2nd, a couple of days after disappearing after a night out drinking with his friends. When I attended his funeral a few days later, I discovered that I was one of thousands who had noticed his extra friendly personality. His was the largest funeral Saint John Vianney Church in Brookfield has ever seen. His death was what seemed like the most shocking thing to happen to ever Brookfield, at least as long as I’ve been around. While he was alive, Luke had affected the entire community.

The official police report rules Luke’s death an accident. No one is sure exactly what caused him to end up in the river, which is located not far from the bars he was seen at earlier that evening. But with a blood-alcohol level of 0.32, police speculate that Luke accidentally fell in.

But could Luke’s death have been prevented?

If only there were policemen or security personnel keeping a closer eye on people wandering towards the river. Or, if only the city of La Crosse had put up a fence at the river’s edge to prevent people from falling in.

Well, hindsight is 20/20, right?

Apparently not for the city of La Crosse. Luke was not the first young man to die this way in the La Crosse-area rivers. Or the second. Or the third. Or the forth… Luke was the eighth young male to end up in the river since 1997.

With eight young men dead, that’s enough for this to be considered a problem, right?

Well, the first seven deaths hadn’t seemed to cause the city of La Crosse to care enough about this problem to do anything about it.

In fact, many push the blame not on the city, but on the partiers themselves. Many residents believe that the city of La Crosse has a binge drinking problem. It’s alcohol that’s killing these young men, they say.

True, if these men weren’t drinking the nights of their deaths, they’d probably still be alive today. But the thing is, college students are going to drink. They always have, and they always will. While it sometimes results in poor decision-making, which can sometimes lead to a fatal accident, as we’ve learned, they are not going to stop partying.

When the city’s alcohol oversight committee took suggestions after Luke’s death, Cyndy Reichgelt, 53, of La Crosse said, “Education isn’t helping. It’s hard to change kids.”

Alfred Knorr, also of La Crosse, flat-out stated, “We’re not going to stop them from drinking.”

So, with the proposed solution of trying to control La-Crosse students’ drinking out of the question, the city needs to take it upon themselves to look for other solutions.

Perhaps on weekend nights – which includes Thursday nights in the minds of college students – the La Crosse Police Department could have more policemen or security officers patrolling Riverside Park around bar time.

Or, maybe the city’s best bet is to erect some sort of barrier along the river’s edge. While some might argue that a barrier or fence would not be as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as the riverfront’s current appearance is, we’ll see what’s more important to them when someone they know drowns.

It’s pathetic enough that the city of La Crosse didn’t learn to prevent this problem after the first two or three drownings since 1997. But Luke was number eight.

Eight deaths.

How many more people have to die before somebody does something about this?

We can only hope that Luke was the one to make them learn.

Reichgelt has three college age children. "I feel blessed they don't go to La Crosse," she said.