Monday, December 11, 2006

Keep your nose clean

Finals, as I’'m sure you’ve noticed, are here. Have you been getting enough sleep? I didn'’t think so. Brushing your teeth in the library?  Probably. Having caffeine-induced hallucinations and gibbering nonsense? Aren'’t we all?   

Yes, it'’s time for the last lap of the semester, and it'’s always pretty taxing. We panic-study, cram, and otherwise try to crowbar that last little theorem into our heads, and we forget all about it after the exam. We go to great lengths to do so, in fact. A lot of people even do crazy things like snorting Adderall or Ritalin to get those last few hours of studying in. There are a lot of problems with the way we study, but this has to be one of the worst ones.   

It shouldn't be too surprising to those of you who’'ve read me before that I have ADHD. I take Adderall every day, and I have been doing so for many years. Consequently, I know a good deal about it, and from that knowledge let me plead with you: DO NOT PUT THIS CRAP IN YOUR NOSE. It'’s strong medicine —— basically a slightly watered-down version of methamphetamine —— and is dicey enough when used in measured, physician-approved doses.  It screws with your appetite. It can make you a really awful person to be around, and it can absolutely ruin your sleep schedule.    

Crushing it into powder and doing lines of it, then, is one of the dumber things I can think of. Although I'’ve never done it, I know that it takes effect instantaneously and uncontrollably. I imagine that it’d be pretty scary for someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing, especially if they do very much of it.

Most importantly, if you do enough of this stuff, it will give you cardiac arrest and you will die. Finito. Finishing chapter 14 of Smurf Biology isn'’t really worth it. You didn'’t study enough when you had the chance, so take your medicine, not my medicine.

Good luck, and keep your noses clean.

Jon Gold
DI columnist

Approach Israel-Iran relations with rational mindset

Israel’s minister for strategic affairs, Avigdor Lieberman, is charged with one of the most salient jobs in the Israeli government. His key task is to formulate Israel’s relationship with Iran. While Israeli-Iranian cooperation has more historical precedent than most people realize, any compromises between the two states at the present time is unlikely. Lieberman took the post about a month ago, and his statements about Iran, as well as the Palestinian conflict, thus far foreshadow what we are likely to see in the coming months.

Lieberman’s strategic approach is demonstrative of the political realism that is so abundant in times of conflict. He has stated that Iran is the one of the most pressing issues facing the Israeli government today.
This view of Iran as such a huge threat is partially due to the lack of stability in the Middle East and the uncertainty regarding which states are going to emerge in the aftermath of the Iraq war as the most powerful. Although Saddam Hussein’s regime was brutal, as is often the case with strong dictators, it was relatively stable. The U.S. occupation and the subsequent civil war in Iraq have contributed to a restructuring of the power balance in the region. As a new status quo is defined, states such as Israel and Iran are both trying to emerge on top of the pile.

Perhaps even more disputed are Lieberman’s recommendations for addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He suggests that the surest path to peace is to redraw the borders to create two states that are more culturally homogenous. Not surprisingly, this proposal was rapidly attacked as racist. It is thoroughly unproductive, however, to base our explanations of events on something untestable, such as a decision-maker’s psychological biases. Historically, states with populations fragmented by language and religion, among other factors, are not strong, and Lieberman’s position simply reflects this understanding.

Finally, Lieberman has stated that the best way for Israel to combat security threats from the Palestinians is to focus on the upper levels of leadership in Hamas. This idea also fits nicely with what we would expect from a rational decision-maker. He states, “We need to concentrate on those who have something to lose, the entire upper-echelon of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.” This demonstrates an understanding that, despite the rhetoric we may hear from Hamas leaders, they are the ones in a position of power in the Palestinian government and, therefore, are the ones concerned with staying in power. Focusing on this cohort of Palestinian society will best serve Israel’s interests.

Analyzing the situation in this way can create mechanisms for predicting what political moves are likely in the near future. In this way, we can also ask when and under what conditions would Israel and Iran or Palestine be likely to cooperate. This would advance the peace process more effectively than falling back on moral judgment.

Lydia Pfaff
DI columnist

Monday, December 4, 2006

BCS bloodbath

Oh, good god. First we beat ourselves bloody, and now the Alamo Bowl people are tossing us in the shark tank.

College football has always done it differently, and this season is throwing those differences into sharp relief. As I write this, there’s a roiling controversy over which team really deserves a shot at the national championship game against Ohio State.  Perennial powerhouse USC was widely expected to face the Buckeyes, but lost a shocker against underdog rivals UCLA. Now Florida gets a somewhat unexpected chance, but even this was met with rumbles of indignation. The computer (oh, yes, it’'s a computer, doesn'’t that give you confidence?) that calculates BCS rankings had Florida and Michigan tied for second place, but the coaches and AP voters really seemed to hate the idea of a Michigan-OSU repeat, even though most of them would agree that Florida is the weaker team. 

Then again, since Michigan has already tried their luck and found it wanting against OSU, the Buckeyes still ought to be heavily favored against any possible challenger. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that it’s a damn silly system, but it probably won’t make much of a difference this year at least for the championship game. The rest of college football’s postseason is a kind of Thunderdome of vaguely hierarchical bowl games that don’t really count for anything other than bragging rights and momentum for, er, next year. (I’'m not kidding; some sports journalists talk about momentum gained from these flashing-neon-lights-SEASON-ENDING games.) This leads to what could politely be called “a few mismatches.”  Another way to put it might be that every postseason game other than the championship is a glorified party put together solely for the purpose of drawing spectators and viewers. “Bloodbaths” is the word.

There needs to be a better system for this. Great teams shouldn'’t sit at home in January, and our poor beleaguered Hawks deserve better than what I'’m pretty sure will be a brass-knuckle beating at the hands of the Texas Longhorns. End the loony BCS.

Jon Gold
DI columnist

Gaming evolution

What if the world you lived it was about to vanish right before your eyes? No flash of light, no doomsday asteroid, and no cataclysmic tidal wave.

So then who is the apocalyptic villain? Bankruptcy. The online MMO (massively multiplayer online) game Ryzom has come under assault because of financial woes and there is a possibility that if the courts rule in favor of splitting up the franchise the world could disappear forever. According to the BBC, "the Free Ryzom Campaign is hoping to purchase the online fantasy game Ryzom from current owners Nevrax who will go into receivership in December." So far, the campaign has raised 60,000 euros in pledges from those faithful to the game hoping to see the perpetuation of its life.

This move is significant because if the Free Ryzom Campaign is able to obtain the popular MMO game they have declared their plans to release the source code to the gaming community. The source code is the underlying code of a program and is typically kept secrete by computing companies so they can charge consumers to use it. So if they source code is released gamers would be able to edit and alter their virtual realities freely and submit interface changes freely among the population. 

What we are seeing is an evolution of the gaming industry. Why hire programmers when you can dupe your loyal fan base into doing the work for you while pretending it is an honor to give them something they should have had access to in the first place?

John LaRue
DI columnist

Monday, November 27, 2006

Another one bites the dust

My dinner plans took a great hit last week. With the 'rents coming in on Thursday, I was looking forward to another world class meal from what I considered the best of the small Iowa City restaurant lineup. I couldn't believe it as I strode up to the window peering into the darkened quarters. A small note on the door was all that stated what the blank insides cued me in on: Venuto's: World Bistro was closed, for good. It stated the customary "thanks" to its faithful patrons, and cited finances as the main reason for closure. 

What this comes down to, and illustrates more than anything, is that Iowa City is dying. Yep, I said it. This week has been an eye opener of sorts, because like any good kid living in the apartment world, I ran out of food. Not wanting to buy new groceries that could spoil, and partially because I wanted to dine out more, I was forced out into downtown Iowa City for food survival.   

You know what the problem in that is? If you don't want to eat at a bar, well, you're screwed. Wait, check that, you could eat at a fast food restaurant along the lines of Taco Bell (found out the perils of that on Monday). It's not bad simply that Venuto's closed, but rather another piece of the teetering unofficial restaurant alliance fell. Restaurants in walking distance of the eastern part of the campus are dwindling at an alarming rate. One-twenty-six, Givanni's, Takanami, and Devote, are about the only restaurants leading the charge anymore. If you go downtown to the Ped Mall, well, let's see, we could get plain grill food from Brothers, or maybe Vito's.

I'm not knocking these bars as badly as it may seem. My feeble attempts at cooking make me more that willing to participate in feasts at just about any place, but unique restaurants like Venuto's just don't come around that often. If I want a nine-course Mediterranean full on blitz of a meal, I'm out of luck. 

Last spring I was struggling to get a REAL restaurant reservation anywhere because of graduation. My friend was confused, because he assumed that it?d be easy to get into a place like Applebee's or Old Chicago, but herein lies the problem: As today's Iowa City and America in general continue allowing the death of the small restaurant, people begin to forget what the dining experience could mean. To me, going to a restaurant shouldn't be about wondering if the table is clean, or what some famous chef created on the latest commercial. No, my dream would be sitting down for two hours, getting my multiple-platter eat on, and if they would be so kind, how about that Mediterranean belly dancer.

Jon Van Dyke
DI editorial writer

Music's "rock diplomacy"

An interesting new international development, the practice of "rock diplomacy," is becoming prevalent in a series of mostly European countries sending independent rock bands to the United States. By providing mostly unknown bands with grants sometimes topping $18,000 in funding for touring, recording, and other expenses, a variety of governments from Scandinavia to Australia hope to gain goodwill, cultural influence, and economic remuneration.

These bands have been offered, in some cases, large amounts of money by government arts councils so they can travel to the U.S. to promote their music. Ontario rock group Broken Social Scene and its record label, for instance, were offered $140,000 by a publicly-funded Canadian music promotion agency. The organization, called Factor, has a $12.4 million dollar endowment and has distributed money to one third of over 3,800 applicants which included sub-popular bands The Arcade Fire and Stars. The program is justified in part as a way to help define a "Canadian identity" against ubiquitous American ones. However, the project may overlook that, as Adam Shore, former signer of musical trainwreck The Brian Jonestown Massacre who now works closely with the Swedish consulate promoting bands in America, astutely points out, many of the immigrating rock groups "sound like bands we already have."

Aside from undercutting their rebel posturing, though, it is unclear what this use of occasionally large amounts of public money accomplishes. Certainly, it is good for indie music, which places a premium on the exotic, weird, and free-of-charge. But even in cases where bands are modestly successful, the benefit to their home country in the areas described above appears to be minimal at best. Could it be that the reason why many of these bands sound exactly like their ephemeral indie counterparts in America is because "American culture" is increasingly indistinguishable from the more global one shared by these bands?

In an age of increasingly mobile and cheaply made music, it is unclear why this expenditure is necessary. It seems that, if bands are good enough to generate their own buzz, the rest will follow — and taxpayers around the world will avoid paying for their airline tickets.

Tyler Bleau
DI columnist

Monday, November 13, 2006

The "M"-word

In a classic, "Oh, no he didn’t," moment, Tom Vilsack splashed the big democratic uprising with the M-word. That’s right, Vilsack rocked my ears with the word I loathed only two years ago: Mandate. Now, I just don’t know how to react to that type of speech anymore. During my political career (of paying attention), I’ve never witnessed a Democratic government, everything has always been red, all I knew of Bill Clinton was good, but not really what he was doing to garner that term.

Then came the ultimate race, the presidential campaign of 2000. It marked the birth of my political pessimism. Every election year from then on has been met with disdain, until that special night when I run to and constantly refresh my hopeful candidates’ races. 

And here is the disturbing bottom line, if you will. I was so happy that Leach was toppled, and my roommate and I just kept maligning Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” with Loebsack-infused parodies as the topsy-turvy race, considered to the outside as a safe bet, rolled on throughout the night. I went to bed with the Democratic challenger up by a little over 500 votes, with 97 percent of the precincts reporting, sure that Johnson County’s remaining 2 percent not reported would ensure his victory.  

For the first time ever, I feel as though I finally impacted a race, after narrow losses throughout my early voting years. And ya know what? I felt bad for Leach, because as numerous bloggers and reporters have expounded upon, he’s a legitimately good guy. But I’m from Johnson County. We’re supposed to be the bastion of liberalism in Iowa. Somebody who votes liberal maybe three out of eight times might be admiral, but I’ll take the guy who skews closer to three fourths of the time any day. 

Now back to the mandate. Why that word, Tom? I still feel the kick in the mouth when I first heard that word just two years ago from some high up dude. Words like that tick people off; tick them off so much that nice guys do indeed finish last, at least in District 2. I don’t want that to happen to this precious new state and national governmental makeups. Big splash words can leave you soaking wet, Tom, and now that you’re a national candidate, let’s try to learn from ticked off voters in the first place.

Jon Van Dyke
DI editorial writer

A disturbingly clever loss

I'’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Democrats, even with huge momentum and universal public anger directed at the GOP, actually won an election. It’s like the Generals beating the Globetrotters. I kept expecting the usual things: Serious irregularities in Democrat-heavy districts; suspiciously inaccurate exit polling; masterfully run get-out-the-vote operations.  None of these materialized. I was gripped by a sense of unreality, like someone who has just remembered that the red mushrooms are the ones to put in his salad, not the spotted kind.

I realized, though, that I'’d missed something: The Republican party didn't’ want to win. Having eaten no mushrooms of any kind, I'’m pretty sure that they sacrificed control of the House and Senate to set up the 2008 presidential campaign. Look at it this way: Why were people so manifestly furious with them? Iraq, of course. They think it'’s a failure, and justifiably want their sons and daughters home right away. The problem is that neither party is going to do that, because the Iraqi civil war would instantly get bloodier by orders of magnitude. So the Republicans will be perfectly happy to let Democrats wrestle the alligator on this one, and they’they'll have neatly defanged Iraq as a political weapon. 

Think I'’m crazy? Ask yourself why the White House waited until the day after the election to make the well-received (and well-deserved) move of dumping Donald Rumsfeld. Do you really think that they decided that it would be wrong to twist foreign policy for political gain? These are guys and gals who’'ve done exactly that since day one!

It'’s breathtakingly clever, in a deeply disturbing way. They get themselves into a no-win situation, then they let the other team play. Unless the Dems are a lot savvier than I think they are, it’'s going to work, too.

Jon Gold
DI columnist

Marching band memories

I have been a member of the trombone section of the Hawkeye Marching Band for the four years that I have been enrolled at Iowa. Saturday marked the last game that I will perform at in Kinnick Stadium. Marching band is probably one of the most time consuming student activities on campus, and this certainly is a factor that every member has to consider. Looking back on the past four seasons, however, I realize that I wouldn't’t have changed my decision to participate in this organization, and I would like to encourage anyone with musical experience to consider the opportunities that the band offers.

Undoubtedly, the music of a university, its fight songs and alma mater, provides a common thread that binds together all members of its community. This is especially true of Big Ten schools, due to their large student population, the quality of athletics, and the tradition associated with each university. The opportunity to be part of that history and tradition is truly a privilege.

One of my best memories from being a band member was marching pregame before the Ohio State game this year. Performing under the lights in front of a full capacity crowd was an experience that I wish everyone could have. From Kinnick to bowl games to the Friday night “music rehearsals” downtown, the amount of time committed to the band has certainly been worth it. It’s always fun to see how each individual works together to create the show as a unit in and of itself. I would highly encourage anyone who is interested to consider joining this organization.

Lydia Pfaff
DI columnist

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Lofty expectations

A changed political landscape crawled across the country Tuesday night. With polls closing first on the east coast, initial numbers showed more than a few Democratic upsets early in the evening — and they only got bigger as the night progressed. One of the first big LOSERS (as called out by Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's "Midterm Midtacular") was Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, the number three person in the Senate for the Republicans, an avid Bush supporter and conservative knee-slapper. The two term senator and would-be presidential hopeful was ousted 59%-41%, with Fox
News, CNN, and MSNBC all calling the election for challenger Bob Casey before 9 p.m.

As the night moved forward and the polls closed in the Central and Mountain Time zones, what would have been huge upsets just two years ago turned into sweet reality for the Democrats. Iowa was perhaps the most overlooked of all
states, with the Democrats gaining two new House seats, along with having the first Democratic governor elected after a sitting Democratic governor in over 40 years.

As a lifelong Iowan who has maintained residence in a Jim Leach-represented district since birth, I went to bed last night
thinking that perhaps that would finally change in the morning. When I woke up, it was confirmed. I'd like to think that many things changed in America on that night, but, before anyone can start talking about drastic changes, we have to see some evidence of that change. The country has put their faith in a party that came to power this year without any real specific issue changes, other than "look what the Republicans did." American's will expect more than just rhetoric in the two years to
come, and hopefully the new party in power will give us just that.

Eric Kochneff
DI columnist

Off the field "Astroturf"

The rampant use of canned letters to the editor is an affront to the political process, and a perversion of the "Fourth Estate" through which these sordid sandwich boards are disseminated. Called "astroturf," these letters are produced by campaigners for public office and distributed to members of the community, who send them under their names. Posing as very motivated, if not sycophantic supporters of a particular candidate, the people who send in the letters contribute nothing — save for a stamp, envelope, and the saliva oozing out of their slackened jaws — to what is basically free advertising on a newspaper's editorial page.

While most people expect the election-year smut commonly heard or seen on TV and on the radio (of "Nussle Hustle" variety), the editorial page is not advertising space and should, ideally at least, be different. It is a travesty of the editorial page's traditionally vaunted status as a bastion of American democracy and a forum for exercising freedom of speech, and the onus for this cynical exploitation rests solely with politicians and their associates. Newspapers, which have no way of knowing for sure which are which, and are thus under a certain obligation to give all letters the benefit of the doubt, cannot really be held responsible. Astroturf is just one relatively mild example of the poverty of politics in a decadent, "rationally ignorant" America, also evident in ever more facile and ethically-challenged campaign ads, officials' conduct, and now, vote hacking. These fears may be perennial ones, and American democracy may not be what it was cracked up to be; yet we
should strive for the ideal, or adjust the myths accordingly.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Perfect timing

An Iraqi court, to no one’s great surprise, has sentenced Saddam Hussein to death by hanging. A curfew, still in effect as I write this, was imposed shortly before the verdict was delivered. Violence is expected after its expiration. What a shock; violence is expected in Iraq.

Of Hussein’s multitudinous crimes, his massacre of almost 150 Shiites in the town of Dujail is the one that will end his life.  Even though I’m generally against the death penalty, I’m not an Iraqi, and, frankly, I’m finding it hard to fuss about the pending execution of such a soulless tyrant.

However, I wonder at the verdict’s timing. Like I said, it’s not exactly a shock that a government dominated by the group that suffered the worst of Saddam’s heinous brutality would decide to execute the guy. It was pretty much a foregone conclusion, even with Saddam’s frequent disruptions of the trial and the assassination of some participants. Yet the government of Iraq, which owes its very existence to U.S. political leaders, somehow decided to announce the pending execution of one of America’s main political bogeymen just two days before our elections.

Whether it will be enough to swing significant numbers of votes to the Bush-led Republican Party remains to be seen. The President has, understandably, been trumpeting the verdict as noisily as possible as he stumps for the GOP. What better distraction from growing dissatisfaction in Republican ranks and the politically disastrous editorials published recently in all four armed forces newspapers calling for the ouster of the Secretary of Defense?

For all of Mr. Bush’s political life, Saddam Hussein has been his single greatest political tool. In death, it seems, the pattern will continue. 

Jon Gold
DI columnist

Monday, November 6, 2006

A chance at a Second Life

What would you do if you could have another shot at winning the big game or going in on that business deal you passed up and lost millions? Well maybe now you can find out. The virtual life videogame Second Life has hit the one million mark and is showing no signs of slowing down. The game allows members to sign up for free and create virtual representations of themselves called avatars. Once enrolled, the members need but engage in the virtual community and set up shop, meet new people or just fly around (yes you can fly). The game has become so popular that the BBC has sent technology reporter Mark Ward into the community to get to the bottom of why this game has captured the lives of more than a million people.

The laws of the land are simple. There are six forms of behavior that members are required to abstain from or risk banishment: intolerance, harassment, assault, disclosure, indecency, and disturbing the peace. Other than that you're free to go about your business building relationships.

There's a tendency for these games to become "pegged" as nerdy and played only by those who have nothing better to do but I beg to differ. Second Life could very well mark the future of social networking. Facebook, Myspace, and other personalized web designs offer limited customization compared to virtual worlds like Second Life. At least your avatar can move and is not limited by "hobby" and "interest" categories. It will be interesting to see if these three-dimensional worlds will begin to influence websites of this nature.

John LaRue
DI columnist

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Halloween havoc

My life is complete. I have seen something so ridiculous and disturbing that it has made me question my purpose on this earth and why there is not a law banning Halloween in Iowa City.

It began on the chilly Halloween Saturday night outside of Sports Column. Amidst the entourage of bumble bee bimbos and not so little Bo-Peeps stumbled a drunken six foot five gangly Spider Man followed closely by a slightly shorter and equally drunk Ninja, complete with face mask and katana sword. Two sinister looking bouncers in black t-shirts in turn followed them. While I was preparing myself to watch a cataclysmic beat-down, Spider Man and the Ninja had other plans. They, by some divine intervention, fire up a black moped and speed away just avoiding the bouncer's outstretched hands. They then proceed to fly down Dubuque Street going down the wrong side of the road, the Ninja waving his katana sword at oncoming traffic with vigor.

It is apparent that Halloween is used just like every other holiday in Iowa City. An excuse to get hammered and run around town in clothing Jenna Jameson would find offensive. I don't see any end to the madness in the near future but it makes me question whether the weight of academics makes people vault into disproportionate states of being when the time comes to celebrate. After observing the calm and peaceful demeanor of Iowa City during the summer it makes me sad to see what happens when mismanagement of time and purpose leads to Spider Man endangering the lives of pedestrians.

John LaRue
DI columnist

Monday, October 30, 2006

Arthur Andersen needs our help!

The poor and mistreated in this country have a new public face: Arthur Andersen. The giant accounting firm, which was convicted of obstructing justice in 2002 for its role in the Enron fraud, now needs our help. Yes, we can end corporate losses in this country! Doesn’'t quite have the same impact as “I have a dream” or “give peace a chance,” does it? Cut me some slack, it’s hard to sing the praises of a company that helped Enron screw investors and employees out of millions.

Large corporations already have huge legal and financial advantages in this country, most of which stem from our comically lax rules about campaign finance. Even if you ignore the worst instances of out-and-out bribery, it still follows that the biggest campaign contributors get the most face time with lawmakers. As a consequence, there are tax loopholes and fat government contracts aplenty for the big-money players of the Beltway.

After the egregious scandals of a few years ago, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley act, which was aimed at limiting corporate skullduggery. It’d be wonderful if Congress could do stuff like this when it’s not an absolute political necessity.  Then again, it’d be wonderful if bacon didn’t make you fat.

The resumption of business as usual, though, appears to be imminent. The Supreme Court threw out Andersen’s conviction last year. Several corporate honchos whined to the New York Times that tough liability laws like Sarbanes-Oxley are pushing away investors through “excessive costs."

What garbage. The only real costs of Sarbanes-Oxley and other checks on corporate wrongdoing are paid by companies that break the law. The government’s job is not to make life easy for corporate elites that have shown, time and again, that they will not behave responsibly unless they are forced to.

Federal regulations aren’t the problem. It’s crooked corporations that don’t want to play by the rules.

Jon Gold
DI columnist

Too interactive?

In an interesting move for a multimedia power play, the X-Box franchise has decided to make a movie out of the multi-million hits Halo and Halo 2. The decision was made to assign Peter Jackson as the producer while Fox and Universal would fund the project. However, after the Microsoft franchise refused to lower the budget from $200 million to the previously projected $135 million both Fox and Universal withdrew support.

Now what is more interesting than the financial woes brought upon Microsoft with its two largest supporters falling out of line is the possibility of a reversal of the spawning route for videogames. The original paradigm goes from movie to videogame to possibly more movies and videogames. Take Bond films for example. First there was James Bond: Golden Eye the movie then 007: Golden Eye, the game(s). Producers sense a change in the average moviegoer and have pounced. No longer satisfied by inaccessible plots and repetitive characterizations the public desires something they can tap into and engage if not in the movie theatre, then outside it in the comfort of their own living space. Fully interactive media is no longer going to be reserved for those with a box and set of controllers but will begin to bleed into other forms of media as well. In the future we will be the creators of our own news, movies, music and television shows, but is it for the best?

John LaRue
DI columnist

Monday, October 23, 2006

Respect the game

Like most people, I was one part horrified, one part shocked, one part excited, and one part stunned by the extreme violence appearing in college football a couple weeks ago. The Saturday night foot-brawl that took place between the University of Miami's and Florida International University's football teams was a reprehensible act that proved to the whole world that they were nothing but a bunch of thugs who'd just as soon use their helmets to hit their competitors than put them on their heads.

There was immediate fallout in the days following the melee. In total, 31 players were suspended. Miami coach Larry Coker suspended only one player indefinitely: safety Anthony Reddick — the player everyone saw run across the field and use his helmet as a weapon against an FIU player. FIU has seen fit to dismiss three of their student athletes and "indefinitely suspend" the other 16 players involved in the fracas.

It appears FIU, the smaller and lesser known school in this situation realizes the correct course of action, unlike Miami, which apparently still doesn't believe it needs to take full responsibility for its player's actions.

The University of Miami is not what the great game of college football is about, and unless sufficient changes are made to the program, it will most likely continue to be an abomination, a disgrace to real schools with real student-athletes who compete fairly and aren't well known for incomprehensible displays of audacious violence.

Eric Kochneff
DI columnist

Monday, October 16, 2006

British ripple

The first images that come to mind when I think of the British Army are guys in berets and stories about tank crews taking a break from kicking the Wehrmacht’s ass to brew tea. What this proves, beyond the warping effect of reading a lot of WWII history as a kid, I don’t know. But their current leadership certainly seems to have been taking its vitamins. 

General Sir Richard Dannatt (and what a title he has!) came out with a public statement last week in which he roundly denounced his governments’ involvement in the Iraq war. According to the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper, the General said there was a “direct link” between the war and domestic terrorism in Great Britain.   

This caused, to put it mildly, a bit of a stir. The British press jumped all over General Dannatt’s startlingly forthright comments, and Tony Blair’s embattled government was forced, once again, into difficult political terrain.   

Why haven’t the General’s harsh words made much of a ripple on this side of the pond? Well, primarily, because they were made on the other side of the pond, and Sir Richard wasn’t, for the most part, talking about us. But just think: If a senior American military commander said something similar, it would by absolutely incendiary. The political climates of both the US and UK are, broadly, much the same at the moment. The war is hugely unpopular, frustration with the apparent lack of progress has swelled enormously, and, as we can see from this incident, neither government would be able to respond to criticism from the military the way it responds to other detractors.   

For the Bush Administration, that would be the final nail in the Iraq war’s coffin: outspoken criticism from the one source immune to the usual, more-patriotic-than-thou tactics.

DI columnist Jon Gold

Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Congressmen

Or for that matter politicians in general. The recent scandal involving now former Congressman Foley has prompted some to renew their warnings about the internet, technology savvy youths, and the necessity of parents to monitor what their children are doing with email, but is this really the problem? Does the use of email represent such a threat? Given the volatile nature of politics, wouldn't it be better if parents protected their children from politicians?

Blaming the means of communication tends to be motivated by fear of technology one does not understand. Certainly most parents don't check to see that their children are using the phone to have lewd conversations with congressmen, or exchanging explicit correspondence with a gubernatorial candidate. Granted the notion that your child may be offered a magic pill that will cure their affliction of erectile dysfunction or an unbelievably low introductory rate loan to help pay off their bills with 5.5 percent APR for the first six months is unsettling, but it's hardly as sinister as the behavior associated politicians. The ease with which one may lampoon communications media makes it an appealing target, but the devious behavior associated with politicians makes them a far greater threat.

Why would any parent allow their child around such unscrupulous individuals in the first place? We all know the vices and immoral behavior that surrounds politicians, blowjobs, marital infidelity, drugs, drunk driving, bribery, cronyism, kickbacks, suicides, ethics violations, and all the lying that goes on. The harsh reality of the political world is a dizzying orgy of depravity. Do we really want our children to be faced with such adult situations, depriving them of the innocence of youth? We need to go after the root of the problem, and not the means by which politicians try to ensnare your children.

DI editorial writer Joe Dunkle

Playing with humor

Sacha Baron Cohen's "Borat" character from "The Ali G Show" took his characteristic deflation of pompous windbags to a new level this week, when he hosted a "press conference" outside of the Kazakhstani embassy in Washington Sept. 28. The conference was staged as a response to the "disgusting fabrications" made by Kazakhstan's press secretary in an earlier conference. Among them, that "we do NOT drink fermented horse urine, give death penalty for baking bagels, or export over 300 tons of human pubis per year."

While Borat has managed to provoke outrage in the Kazakhstani government, the citizens of Kazakhstan apparently could care less. Meanwhile, the government of the former Soviet bloc country has attempted several times to correct the misinformation about Kazakhstan propagated by Borat on the "Ali G Show" and, starting in November, by Borat's new movie "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan." As prices soar, however, it seems the unknown but oil-rich country is positioning itself as a "destination," and is actively trying to promote its prestige, political influence, and economic development.

Seen by the Bush administration as a rare, pro-western version of other predominantly Muslim countries with substantial oil reserves, the Kazakhs are being courted despite their questionable record on democracy and human rights, illustrated most recently by the government's expulsion of two pro-democracy NGOs based in the U.S. It seems that the humor of Borat, which is predicated on his status as a "generic foreign guy," could be subject to some qualification in the future.

DI columnist Tyler Bleau

The lesser of two evils

The way political races are conducted and discussed in this country makes me absolutely crazy. On some days, like when midterms and papers loom in my immediate future, it can be hard to tell the difference. Nevertheless, every time I hear some grinning, facile apology for a public servant serving up dumbed-down pabulum to an uncritical media and an indifferent public, I get the urge to throw things. 

Take Jim Nussle. (Please.)  He is, with the possible exception of flesh-eating bacteria, the worst thing that could infest the governor’s office in Des Moines. And he’s looking more and more likely. Consider: This is a guy who voted to channel money away from our cash-strapped public schools in order to fund vouchers. Vouchers, long the preferred Trojan horse for the anti-education zealots, are supposed to provide “choice” for parents fed up with under-funded and underperforming public schools, to the tune of around $2,500 per student. The problem is, the average non-religious private school charges over twice that for elementary students, and roughly five times as much for secondary students. Religious schools, of course, have no business accepting federal funding for any reason whatsoever. Does it seem fair to have every taxpayer in the state picking up the bill for kids to learn Catholicism? Or any religion? Does God require government subsidies? 

Or how about Nussle on the environment? He voted to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, voted against government funding for alternative fuels (just as well: with his education record, nobody will be smart enough to discover them anyway), voted to cut funding for public transportation, and, at every turn, voted against emissions standards. Yes, folks, people getting sick and dying from environmental pollution appear to be less important than big companies making bigger profits. 

Chet Culver, in all fairness, isn’t much to write home about either. He doesn’t have any real attractiveness as a candidate except for the fact he’s not Jim Nussle. It’s a disaster in the making for the state of Iowa.

DI columnist Jon Gold

Monday, October 9, 2006

Light rail to the future

Public transportation is a must for any city with forward thinking. Cities that think even further into the future have to consider their connectivity with other urban areas. How does Iowa City fit into a network including other cities?

Football weekends give an obscure but worthwhile view into Iowa City's transportation system. The highlight of this view, for me, is the train that runs from the Coralville area to a stop close to the stadium. While it is a novel and symbolic fixture of the past, it could be a prediction of what is coming in the future. With gas prices rising even higher and the average citizen not wanting to drop $30,000 on a hybrid, different ways of getting from A to B are needed.

Iowa City's public transportation system consists predominately of the public bus system alongside the university's own lines. Iowa City should continue on this trend by including train lines from other cities during heavy traffic times like game days. This option would be practical and lucrative for those who commute to and from cities like Cedar Rapids. Rather than continuing to build roads and increase the level of infrastructure, it is best we get a jump-start on promoting future forms of transportation. I'm not suggesting we go off and buy a monorail but I'm predicting a light rail from the downtown area to an area like Coralville would be immensely popular.

John LaRue
DI columnist

First woman elected president of Chile

Last March, Michelle Bachelet was elected president of Chile, becoming the first woman to hold that office. has since listed her as the seventeenth most powerful woman in the world. Bachelet’s appearance last week on ABC’s “The View” has largely flown under the radar, as South American relations are overshadowed in the daily news by more urgent security threats elsewhere. As a highly non-traditional candidate, her path to the highest public office in Chile deserves some consideration.

Bachelet is a socialist, a single mother, and a pediatrician in a traditionally conservative, Catholic society. During the rein of Pinochet, she was incarcerated and tortured along with her mother. Chile is often viewed as an example of successful implementation of a free market economy in Latin America. Although Bachelet’s socialism isn’t what the United States would like to see, her credentials are nonetheless impressive.

Some observers question what Bachelet’s election indicates for the future of Chile. In some ways, her election may be seen as a break from past social conservativism towards a more liberal orientation. Bachelet certainly has many challenges ahead of her in order to implement the reforms on which she campaigned. As her term progresses, it will be interesting to measure her impact on Chile and all of South America.

Lydia Pfaff
DI columnist

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Toughen up NFL

Millions of NFL fans and Sportscenter viewers witnessed one of the worst episodes of in-game NFL football hooligan violence when Tennessee Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth literally stomped the forehead of Dallas Cowboys center Andre Gurode after a Cowboys touchdown early in the third quarter of the Oct. 1 Titans-Cowboys game.

Haynesworth was ejected, and afterward appeared apologetic and regretful. Monday, the NFL suspended Haynesworth for five games without pay. In a statement, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said, "There is absolutely no place in the game, or anywhere else, for the inexcusable action that occurred in yesterday's (Sunday) Titans/Cowboys game."

So why not send a real message to the league? As it is now, five games is the longest a player has ever been suspended in the NFL for an on-field action, but is that really enough? If Haynesworth's cleat aim would have been off, he could have missed and stomped on Gurode's eyes, potentially blinding him and ending his entire career.

In the NHL, Todd Bertuzi of the Vancouver Canucks was suspended for the entire season, including the playoffs, after
blindsiding Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore in March, 2004. Bertuzi was charged with assault by Vancouver, authorities, and is still involved in a multi-million dollar civil suit. Moore's hockey career is over, and he is suing for nearly $20 million in lost wages and other punitive damages. In that instance, the NHL acted appropriately and sent a huge
message to the rest of the league: act like a thug and you'll be treated like one.

The NFL needs to suspend Haynesworth for the rest of the season to really prove that there is no place for this extreme behavior and, more especially, to prevent this type of act from happening again.
Eric Kochneff
DI columnist

Monday, October 2, 2006

Digital deviance

Digital rights management may start to affect a group of individuals who are going to start to care. 

MySpace users may have to start owning up to the music and other copyrighted digital content they post on their personalized web pages. The ad-supported website, home to over 50 million users, is free for all and is under pressure from record labels to pay for content. When a user signs up they are allowed to post a song or multiple songs on their page to make it more "you." And it is precisely this "you" that could have the popular website seeing red. 

Digital content is unique in that when it is distributed, the content grows exponentially — and since it is almost impossible to shut down peer to peer networks, the only other option is digitally finger printing content which is already implemented by online music stores like iTunes. But who wants to be told what to do with their music? The convenience of the digital world will have to be met by relaxed copy right laws, increased security, or both — then meet somewhere in the middle. Hopefully the army of MySpacers will recognize the seriousness of the situation and unite to protect their Freedom of Expression ©.

John LaRue
DI columnist

'Daily Show' interview couples intelligent discourse with comedy

Jon Stewart’s interview with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on “The Daily Show” Sept. 26 was complete with its fair share of comic moments. Stewart’s serving Musharraf jasmine tea and Twinkies particularly stands out. Amid the jovial banter, however, were a few interesting comments that shed some light on the motivations behind the actions of heads of state.

When Stewart asked Musharraf why he cooperated with the United States in its invasion of Afghanistan, Musharraf replied that he knew the United States would pursue Osama bin Laden whether Pakistan assisted in the effort or not. In this case, it was rational to side with the United States, because the only way to Afghanistan is through Pakistan. Musharraf also discussed the treaty he signed with pro-Taliban tribal leaders near the Pakistani border, promising the withdrawal of military forces in exchange for the termination of militant terrorist activity.

These two statements demonstrate the pursuit of national interest and the importance of geopolitics in making policy decisions. In cooperating with the United States, Musharraf recognized the geopolitical realities, namely that the United States would need to go through Pakistan and had the ability to do so. In light of this, he clearly made a rational decision for his country. Similarly, in cooperating with pro-Taliban forces, he is recognizing that establishing security is a requirement that must be fulfilled, even if the pursuit of security does not allow ideological considerations to be tantamount.

This exemplifies that instead of rhapsodizing about how leaders should behave, the more intelligent course of action would be to recognize how and why they do behave the way they do.

Lydia Pfaff
*DI* columnist

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Puzzling public art

You can’t really turn your head in downtown Iowa City without looking at sculpture and public art. This is a fine thing, on the whole; I’ve always said that a town without random jets of water in the sidewalk isn’t worth living in, but some of these things confuse the hell out of me.   

Jane DeDecker’s “Ties that Bind”, which is outside the public library, is a case in point. It’s a statue of a guy bending over to tie a kid’s shoe. No matter how many times I walk by it, I have a brief moment of “Come on, let the kid tie his own shoes!” followed by a longer moment of feeling silly. The same goes for “Irving Weber”, made by Steve Maxon and Doris Park. Irv is the cheerful metallic man — Iowa City’s answer to Star Trek’s Data — who stands at the corner of Linn and Iowa Streets. His amiable expression always sets off the "Oh crap, how do I know this guy" subroutine in my head, until I remember that Irv is eternally doffing his hat to all passerby, not just me. 

Justine Zimmer’s “Dorothy,” the Ped Mall’s own natural disaster, could use a facelift. I suggest wire-sculpting miniature apartment buildings and a sorority house near the base of it, and tiny figures nearby throwing tornado parties and snapping pictures of the debris with even tinier camera phones. 

It should be apparent by now that I don’t know the first thing about art. I can’t tell Monet from Mayonnaise. (And why does everybody use Monet when they make an art joke?) But I know that having a thriving artistic community is a rare and wonderful thing for any city, particularly one this size. Kudos to the city for making its public spaces interesting. 

And be careful of the “Weatherdance fountain,” by Myklebust-Sears, especially when wearing nice clothes.

Jon Gold
DI columnist

Monday, September 25, 2006

Google takes over world

Google is going to take over the world one online ad supported program at a time, and Microsoft is beginning to show fear.  The software giant has just announced its plans to begin distributing lower end versions of word on its website. The release comes at a strange time for Microsoft, with constant delays of its next generation operating system, Vista, have even the most faithful Windows users doubting the companies credibility. I think Microsoft is doing what it has to, in order to survive.  But is the future of computing at stake?

Freeware, the term given to free computer programs, are often ad supported and at times open source (the ability for the user to edit the programs by getting into the code). This may seem far-fetched, but in the future advertisers may begin to take over our desktops in an effort by companies like Microsoft and Google to produce programs faster and cheaper in a never ending race for our screens.

But what is the price to consumers? Besides cheaper and possibly even free programs the price is privacy. Even now the highly touted Gmail (Google mail) has code inserted into it that scans your e-mail and sends advertisements based on what words it finds. So if you e-mail home about how you're out of money, it is likely that banking advertisements will pop up with low interest student loans.
Google and Microsoft have changed the way we manage with the information in our world. But how much longer is it, with advances like this, until this information is controlling us?

John LaRue
DI columnist

Education makes strides

The past week and a half has seen two developments which promise to increase the opportunities for higher education available to students in under-represented socioeconomic groups. Firstly, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics voted to return to a focus on basic skills in math instruction for grades K-8. Secondly is Harvard University’s decision to terminate its early admissions program, a move which has also been adopted by Princeton. Neither of these ideas involves creating separate admissions standards for under-represented applicants, rather, they call for equal standards to be imposed for all students both during formative years and during the admissions process.

The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics recommendation is being viewed as a break from a 1989 report which advocated for a less “basic facts” approach to learning math. The 1989 recommendations called for the presentation of a variety of topics and methods, and instead of encouraging mastery of material, encouraged students to reason through problems in their own ways. While learning how to think through problems is an important ability to foster, this program left many students far behind their peers by the time they got to high school and college. With out consistent standards, it was often poorer students who suffered from this the most.

The early admissions programs at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities was utilized by the most competitive prospects as a means of determining early whether they would be admitted into their top choice school. In many, but not all of these programs, students must commit a priori to attend the school if admitted. Thus, they would be locked into a deal without knowing how much financial aid they would receive. By eliminating the early admissions program Harvard University has set a precedent from more equality in the opportunity for admission.

Lydia Pfaff
DI columnist

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Split personality

Iowa City has multiple personalities. Some of them occupy the same bodies. 

Look at the Hawkeye football team, playing in the yearly grudge match against the Cyclones. (This is a relatively new phenomenon for me, being a transfer student from a tiny college with a Division-III football program. No, we didn’t get that excited about football games.) They looked miserable right from the opening kick, when that kid Jackson ran for 62 yards.  Immediately, the feeling was "Oh, damn, here we go again.” Iowa has had a first-rate program for many years now, but it seems like when the Cyclones show up, we become the black-and-gold Eleven Stooges. 

A completely different team showed up for the second half. I know sports journalists say things like that all the time, but I’m starting to wonder if I haven’t been taking them seriously enough. I’m not at all sure those were the same people. Adam Shada, who looked tiny and sad during the first half, suddenly turned into Agent Smith - seemingly everywhere at once.  Marshal Yanda blocked a Cyclone defender so hard that I thought for a moment he’d killed the poor guy. It was a sight to see, boy. 

What a day!  We came from behind to beat the Cyclones at Kinnick! Huzzah! And then we drank. And we drank. And we did some breathtakingly stupid things. The police blotter in Monday's DI looked like a phone book. Ho-hum, some will say, boys and girls will be boys and girls once in awhile. Consider, though: Eleven people had to be treated for alcohol poisoning at UIHC on Friday and Saturday nights. That’s not partying, that’s coming within nodding distance of death. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, I really like beer. I agree with Benjamin Franklin, who said that "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” But I just don’t get this moronic impulse that seizes so many otherwise-normal UI folks on the weekend. 
Have a drink. Have several, in fact. But don’t have 25. That’s just dumb.

Jonathan Gold
DI columnist

Monday, September 18, 2006

Stability a must in Gaza Strip

The dire poverty of the Gaza Strip that has resulted from the suspension of funds to the Palestinian government by Israel, the United States, and European Union exemplifies the importance of having the infrastructure of a legitimately recognized state in economic development. The lack of such institutions renders the Palestinian Authority virtually ineffective without the financial assistance of outside states.

During the years prior to the first Intifada (meaning ‘uprising’ in Arabic) in 1987, Palestinian society experienced social transformations that facilitated the development of embryonic municipal and national institutions. The resistance movement during this time was largely non-violent and centered on the creation of grassroots organizations, for exampling farming cooperatives and health care committees, which were intended to break the Palestinians reliance upon Israel for livelihood.

Initial success was met with euphoria as the holy grail of the movement, attaining an autonomous state, seemed at the time, a dawning reality. The new leadership created the entire infrastructure, albeit in infancy, of a fully functioning municipality.  Ultimately though, the political underpinnings of these social programs caused them to fragment. The new elite that had constructed the diffuse network of institutions did not possess the ability to consolidate them into a force capable of maintaining power and building a state. 

The lack of effective institutions creates frustration at the lack of bargaining power, vis-à-vis states like Israel and the US and makes security a nearly insurmountable hurdle. The cycle of violence which results, has proved difficult to interrupt. So long as infrastructure development is lacking, the prospect of a successful settlement remains gloomy.

Lydia Pfaff
DI columnist

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Hold onto your music

It's been in the news lately that MySpace now plans to start selling music to rival other online competitors like iTunes and Napster. I'm wondering when people are going to get sick of not having something to hold onto for their dollar.

Sure iTunes offers a digital booklet for people who purchase entire albums but what kind of consolation is this, if your computer crashes and you lose it all? The average iTunes album is around $9.99 and the average song is about 99 cents. For an extra four or five dollars at a music store like the Record Collector you not only get the rights to that CD for a lifetime but you're also supporting local business which in an era of consumer flytraps like Best Buy and Sam Goody is an invaluable contribution. Music, being a medium unique to the ears (unless at a performance), has the advantage of being able to hold many different forms whether on a CD or MP3 player. 

The visceral response to music is much the same whether on either of these two formats, but the same does not hold true for art forms of a primarily visual format. The six dollar Van Gogh posters at the IMU do not incite the sort of response one would have, if the painting were viewed in the Louvre, though they are an excellent way to get acquainted with art. Digital music, on one hand is easy to produce and allows the music industry to not only enact greater privacy controls but also increase profits by not having to manufacture thousands of CDs. With the emergence of these new music outlets consumers are going to have to be careful where and how they manage their digital music world.  

John LaRue
DI columnist

Coverage not overkill

So everyone knows Monday was the 5th anniversary of 9/11. It was plastered all over cable and network TV all day long, and
pretty much every single news source in the United States did as much content as they possibly could to cover it.
Is it overkill?

I would say no. Five years is a relatively short time period, and 9/11 was such a drastic event that basically changed the way
we think and feel and fight and fear that we can't possibly get over it in the short time span we've been through.

Not only have the changes been social, economic, and cultural, but personal as well. I would say there is not a single person who was alive in the U.S. after the events of 9/11 that has not been affected in some way. The effect on me was significant —basically, a change in career choice from what I thought I'd do since I was a child.

And i'm just one random guy in the middle of Iowa who didn't know anyone directly that was hurt, killed, or maimed in the attacks. There are nearly 300 million people in this country, all of whom have reasons why they were impacted from this tragedy.

5 years is not long at all.

Eric Kochneff
DI columnist

Nice guys play tennis

I’ll admit that over the past year, I’ve gotten sucked into watching more sports than I ever thought I’d be interested in. The World Cup turned me on to soccer in a big way, though there’s not much I can do about this, since there’s nobody in Iowa City who seems to care about Arsenal vs. Manchester United the way I do. (I’m rooting for Arsenal, in case you were wondering.) I watched curling during the Olympics, and even cast an eye over a lacrosse game (match?) once. 

The problem is that a lot of big-time athletes seem to be correspondingly big-time jackasses. From Terrell Owens and his serial teamwrecking, Latrell Sprewell trying to strangle a coach, all the way to Barry Bonds’ self-righteous media bashing, a lot of professional jocks are tiresomely childish.   

This is why I’m rapidly becoming a tennis fan.  

If, for whatever reason, you weren’t watching football on Sunday, you could have seen Roger Federer smack Andy Roddick all over Arthur Ashe Stadium in the U.S. Open finals. Federer is really something to watch, unbelievably fast and breathtakingly skillful. Andy Roddick is a great tennis player himself, but he was barely in the game before the second set. The Swiss phenom is already, at the age of 25, indisputably the best player in the world, and arguably the best ever.   

And, mystifyingly, Roger Federer appears to be a genuinely normal, amiable guy. He never rants about his greatness in public, though he’s got far more reason than most to do so. He’s still dating the girl he was with before he was a big star. He doesn’t exchange juvenile insults with opponents. He doesn’t travel with a massive entourage of bodyguards, media spinners, and manicurists.  

What a pleasant change of pace. 

Jon Gold
DI columnist

Monday, September 11, 2006

'World War III' title not fitting for current conflicts

World War III, in past, was the term used to describe what would have occurred if war broke out between the United States and the Soviet Union. With the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991, one would have thought it the remnant of a bygone era. Alas, some politicians are attempting to resurrect it for use in their own political maneuvering. World War III is now being used to describe the “war on terror.”

President Bush in May referred to the war on terror as “World War III,” and former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, in a gutsier move, has stated that the United States has been fighting this war since the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut — strangely enough, at the same time we were still fearing World War III with the Soviets. It’s rather odd that we’ve apparently been involved in a world war and didn’t even notice for 20 years. What’s far more absurd, though, is what happens when you start to compare what World War III with the U.S.S.R. would be like to the current situation — nuclear holocaust versus war on terror?

The title of “world war” simply is not fitting. The current battles occurring in the world simply do not have the markings of a world war. The enemy is a number of loosely affiliated, nongovernmental groups with their own goals and motivations. In the Cold War, we had a discernible foe in the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries, but we now have a hodgepodge of fighters from all over the globe.

While the claim that we are engaged in the third world war makes for a weak argument, it does raise an interesting concern, which has tentatively been remarked upon following the 9/11 attacks. It has been said before, but it needs to be stated again: Terrorism is the new communism. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States found itself without a worthy adversary to direct aggression against. There is a lot of history repeating itself, albeit in a very short span of time. Most noticeably has been the rationale offered in explaining the conflict. One of the initial explanations was the “clash of civilizations” claim, that there was an inevitable showdown between the East and the West, the modern world versus radical Islam. This sounds strikingly similar to the criticisms of the Soviet Union started by former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, who saw an atheist nation and advocated the U.S. role as a God-fearing nation was to resist such a scourge.

The advantage that terrorism has over communism is its ambiguity and ubiquity. It’s an enemy that can be found in any country where individuals are willing to resort to violence for political means — and will be a lasting problem. Unlike the Soviet Union, which occupied definite geographical boundaries and had a government and a standing army, this threat could be the person sitting next to you on a plane. It sets no limit to the paranoia it can instill, a bogeyman for the adult world that can carry all the fear and blame that needs to be laid.

Joe Dunkle
editorial writer

The education debate

The never-ending debate about the cost of obtaining a higher education has recently garnered attention. While students are likely, of course, to object to the amount of funding allocated to financial aid, the importance of affordable education is difficult to understate.

A comparison of the levels of economic development between Eastern and Western Iowa demonstrates the importance of large research institutions in attracting business and investment to a region. Universities provide services, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for example, that contribute to the attractiveness of an area. Every year thousands of graduates enter the workforce, providing a constant source of educated employees. Within university towns themselves, the student population enables the success of a variety of unique business.

Financial aid typically goes to the neediest students and to the most high-achieving students, as it should. But what often gets over looked in the financial aid debate is the difficultly for average, middle-class students to afford an education. In order to qualify for financial aid, people need not be responsible with their earnings; in fact it might be advantageous not to be. Middle class families that are responsible savers are in effect punished. They are not likely to qualify for aid even though, they may really need assistance.

It is deplorable that this demographic is often overlooked since most of these students will in turn become the core of the workforce. Improving the affordability of a college education for the middle class is a vital component of building a sustainable workforce. The state of Iowa would be wise to consider it a top priority.

Lydia Pfaff
DI columnist

Waxing Facebook

Facebook, the fascinating social phenomenon sweeping the country, has apparently 'gone too far.' Of course, it has 'gone too far' before: High School Facebook, allowing contact between 'normal' Facebook and High School Facebook, the addition of photo albums, global groups, etc, etc.
But I'm most upset by the removal of user's creation dates. I want my October 10, 2004 (the day Iowa joined Facebook) status shown to the world, proving I am not a Facebook-follower or a sell-out. I'm legit, bitches.

The addition of both the mini-feed and news-feed have prompted a uproar from the Facebook base, very similar to the conservative Republican base reacting to the immigration debate. Indeed, I was initially appalled, joining anti-new Facebook (global) groups. The amazingly huge backlash even found itself into Thursday's edition of the Wall Street Journal.

But my feelings have begun to turn the other way. Slightly after noon on Thursday, while perusing Facebook in the DI newsroom, I noticed that both my news and mini-feeds were no longer updating. I quickly felt a void inside: I had been disconnected from the larger world, not unlike third world countries shut out of the global trading system by developed countries. But I still have qualms with the principle of the new additions: They are rather unseemly, after all.

But my new opinion has been cemented largely because of the forementioned backlash. Indeed, my bizarrely-inherent-universal-contrarian nature has swayed my beliefs. Since public opinion is so vastly against the new Facebook changes, I find myself drawn to them. Facebook previously so-perfectly exemplified the information age our generation lives in. But apparently once the obvious is made more obvious, people take to the barricades.

If you really, really are pissy about mini and news-feeds, edit your freaking privacy settings. But get used to them - because as Mark Zuckerberg himself says, they're here to stay.

Andrew Swift
DI columnist and editorial writer

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

"Ocean's Deadliest"

Poor Steve Irwin.  Who would have guessed that a wild animal would be his undoing? 

The Croc Hunter was filming off the coast of his native Australia when he was mortally speared by a stingray. The show’s title, sadly enough, was to be “Ocean’s Deadliest.” Editors across the world forced themselves not to write sarcastic headlines. 

I don’t know how many people watched “The Croc Hunter” or its spin-offs as a matter of routine, but chances are you know who the guy was. And his fame here was nothing compared to his popularity in Australia. A lot of Aussies believe he should have a state funeral.   

Let’s be honest, though, he was kind of goofy, with that vegemite-thick accent, and bizarre overuse of the word “crikey.” He was a quick laugh and oh-so-easy to parody. The Washington Post points out that “his catchphrases were used in college drinking games,” putting me in the odd position of knowing less about collegiate culture than the Washington Post does.   

It’s unfair, though, to write off Steve Irwin as one of those “why-are-you-famous-again?” celebrities so common in the public eye. In spite of all the hyperactive Aussie yammering, the guy was a real-life naturalist. He did a lot to make the public more aware of the natural world around them, and his fame and fortune contributed enormously to the cause of conservation and the promotion of environmentalism. On top of that, it was hard not to like the guy. He was always so completely and obviously thrilled to be doing what he was doing. Name me five people who had more fun at work than the Croc Hunter. 

We’ll miss you, mate.
Jonathan Gold

Movie mania

Have you ever watched a movie and thought to yourself, "I know what would make this so much better!"? Well, researchers at an Australian university may have given you your chance to actually make it better. They have created a new form of cinema that allows the average moviegoer to create their own movies in real time. The participant positions himself in a stand which is in the middle of a 360 degree screen. Then hundreds of individual video clips are projected onto the screen and the person chooses which clips to splice together to create their own specialized movie.

While this may seem like a revolutionary technology aimed at giving the viewer their own highly specialized interactive form of entertainment, it is in fact lagging behind in the race for individualized technologies like RSS feeds and customizable homepages. While Hollywood is struggling with quality, this may be their low-budget saving grace. Why heck, if they can't put out a movie anyone likes then why not just let them do it themselves. It's like a choose your own adventure novel without all those big words!

I predict that it would not be hard to please the average American audience member. Here is a failsafe equation for the researchers creating the clips: 1 semi loaded with jet fuel + 1 half dead hero and a flare gun + 10 men dressed in black on top of the semi shooting at the half dead hero = a pleased audience member pumping their fist and shouting, "Didja see that!"

John LaRue

Monday, September 4, 2006

Traffic flow not that complicated

As thousands of students have flocked back to Iowa City for the start of a new school year, the ubiquitous problem of pedestrian-driver conflict has unsurprisingly flared once again. While some of this angst will subside as the novelty of the year fades into routine, some locations on campus seem to always present problems. Although technically pedestrians have the right of way over vehicles, this should not be viewed as a blank check to impulsively walk in front of whatever car one feels like. With an intrinsic appreciation for traffic flow and a genuine concern for safety in mind, here are a few humble observations.

Although it may seem obvious, many people seem unable to grasp the idea that since the intersection of Iowa and Clinton form a "T", the cars heading west on Iowa Avenue must turn onto Clinton. Pedestrians crossing Clinton should keep in mind that even if Clinton traffic has a red light, all traffic from Iowa will be turning through the crosswalks. At the Cleary walkway, traffic on Market is regulated by the Clinton stoplight. When drivers stop to allow droves of pedestrians to cross, traffic from the next light cycle will be approaching the intersection where the first group of cars is still mired. This produces a seemingly endless knot. The solution would be for vehicles to assert themselves and not stop in the middle of the road. Most pedestrians don’t want to die, so they will wait until the light at Clinton turns red and offers the chance to cross.

As a final note to students going to class, double doors are designed in a way that their name implies. Since the entryway consists of two doors, both of them should be used. It never ceases to amaze me how many people will stand in a clog while two directions of traffic attempt to travel through one door. The consequential bottleneck can be easily avoided by opening the other door. I know that this is a time consuming and labor intensive solution, but we will all be better off in the end.

Lydia Pfaff

College should prepare you for life, not just a career

The first college I went to, not the UI, was jokingly referred to as the “high school after high school," and, for the most part, that seemed right. And though the advising system was more active, it also conveyed contradictory messages. We were going to become well-rounded individuals, while simultaneously pushed into making decisions regarding careers in our freshman year. The last straw was when alumni spoke about what they got out of college.

What were the important lessons learned, you might ask? That the career you think you'll end up with will probably change, public speaking is a useful skill, and, most importantly, forming social networks is crucial. Unfortunately for the social-networking approach, cronyism can be a serious problem. A prime example is former FEMA Director Michael Brown, who lacked any real qualifications for his position but, nonetheless, was selected. Vouched for by his friend, then FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh, helped. Not all jobs are as important as head of FEMA, but this underscores the consequences of social networking. It takes less effort to get ahead but at a cost of quality and certainly fairness to those who did actually put in the effort.

The best solution lies with the students. Many students come in with this notion of what they’re going to do in life, become a doctor or lawyer, earn the big bucks, and live out the life of luxury. With the first semester upon us, it will be the time for students to drop those classes that don’t quite pan out — those that sounded interesting but turned out to be boring or the professor a sadist.

If you can, take a class outside your major and general-education requirements, something you might have an interest in but didn’t plan on pursuing or something you never thought about doing. College is about making well-rounded people and not just another step on the way to a career.

Joe Dunkle
editorial writer

Conflicts conflicting meanings

Israel’s refusal to end its blockade of Lebanon highlights a perhaps growing phenomenon in which states enter into conflicts with non-state actors. In the case of the current crisis, although Lebanon has received the brunt of the harm, they are not at war against Israel since the Lebanese government has not actively declared war. This conflict pits Israel against the political party Hezbollah.

This is an interesting case since typically political parties do not support active militias. This would be like the Democrats or Republicans taking up arms against one another whenever they disagree. Although there is plenty of talk about the vehement atmosphere in Congress, this really is nothing compared to what goes on elsewhere. Traditionally, the only actors that posses the legitimate use of force are states, in other words, sovereign, geographic entities with a government that acts for its population. Much of this power to use force comes from the recognition of legitimacy by other states or the international community.

War in the traditional sense pits states against other states, so the entry of more diverse actors into international warfare causes some problems in how we approach conflict. This issue can be generalized beyond the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. The U.S. war on terror is a primary example. Although we are defining our struggle against terrorism as a war in this sense, in other instances, Iraq for example, we claim that we are fighting an insurgency. The problem with nomenclature can produce some serious legal hang-ups. We had laws of war, but how do these apply when we fight non-traditional actors?

By nature, the development of legal language will proceed slowly as events continue to challenge how we define war. Yet in the mean time, it is pertinent to reflect on the specific meanings of the conflicts in which we engage.

Lydia Pfaff

Jaywalking debate a waste of space

The Daily Iowan's editorial condemning the ICPD’s enforcement of jaywalking penalties is irresponsible. The shaky logic and flawed rhetoric brought forth in bashing the ICPD is representative of the common tendency by students to blindly decry police action in stunning displays of immaturity and laziness. 

Traffic lights direct both pedestrian and vehicular traffic, turning a naturally anarchic jumble of harried students and motorized vehicles into a calm and orderly procession in which everyone takes turns. It all goes back to kindergarten, right? We line up single file and proceed until the crossing guard tells us to stop, then we take turns skipping across the intersection. Some people were apparently never taught the value of sharing, and seem to feel that their time is more valuable than that of the motorists they cut off while haphazardly darting across Iowa Avenue.

The editorial makes the claim that the ICPD was created as a way of extracting money from hapless students, or in some cases, their parents in Naperville. Unfortunately for students deluded by visions of being held down by the man, the truth is far less nefarious, and is more along the lines of the police, having noticed an area where there existed both a blatant disregard for law and order and serious safety issue, stepped in to fulfill their duty to enforced laws designed to protect the well-being of this town’s citizens. 

The author of the editorial seems to feel one’s ability to pay a fine supersedes that person’s responsibility to obey the law. Why not extend this shaky logic to speeding tickets and PAULAs? A student who is caught jaywalking or pounding tequila on his twentieth birthday has broken the law; being a student does not make him less deserving of a fine.

If students see a problem with the laws that govern their lives, the appropriate target is the lawmakers who can actually effect change, not the police officers who merely enforce those laws. And if you’re afraid you can’t afford the ticket, try waiting thirty seconds for the walk light.

Imron Bhatti
editorial writer

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wake up, American media

Good news! John Mark Karr will not be charged in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case, thus guaranteeing the world another odd decade of intense suspense over the real perpetrator of the crime. I will now go throw up.

Even more depressing than the rampant media attention given this completely unimportant and meaningless case is what the media are not covering. American media are all too good at playing up a story for a set period of time — days, maybe weeks — and then completely forgetting about the issue.

Cases in point: Darfur and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Sure, there are a few random stories bumbling around — but hardly an accurate coverage of two immense tragedies. For a few days after Katrina, hopes were raised that, finally, the U.S. media would begin to cover the huge income disparities, largely based on ethnicity, in America. Of course, these hopes largely evaporated at the end of September 2005.

Katrina was in our own backyard — but Darfur is the scene of a horrific genocide, largely condoned by the Sudanese government. It seemed for a month late this spring Darfur would finally be the real “never again” scenario — a feeling proven much too naïve. The peace deal that was so heralded in May is now completely ignored — and has merely given cover for the main rebel group to attack its rivals.

Taken together, the media’s coverage (or lack thereof) of actual news is exceptionally worrisome. I find it hard to believe Americans are truly so ignorant to believe JonBenet Ramsey’s 10-year-old case is more important than hundreds of thousands of dead and displaced. Even if we merely restricted ourselves to national news, the social message so damningly displayed by Katrina and its aftereffects are all but ignored. Day by day, it appears American media have forgotten what it takes to uphold the profession of journalism.

Andrew Swift
editorial writer, columnist

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Runways not the place for guessing games

The crash of Comair 5191 Aug, 27 in Lexington, Ky. marks an end to five years of nearly perfect airline safety.  While the investigation has just begun, the basic premise of the accident has become clear.

The early-morning flight was scheduled to depart the Blue Grass Airport at 6:05 a.m. EST. It was one of the first flights of the day, and at this time of the year, six in the morning is still considered "night" by the FAA. There are two main runways at the airport, runways 26/08 and 22/04 (airport runways are named based on their magnetic heading - add a zero to each number and you get their magnetic direction). All airline flights from the airport use the 22/04 runway, which has
an adequate length of 7,000 feet. With the wind calm, the Air Traffic Controller at LEX (the airport code for Lexington) would have assigned the aircraft to depart from the closest appropriate runway, which in this case for this size of aircraft would be runway 22.

However, to get to runway 22, the aircraft would have to taxi right by the end of runway 26. The two runways intersect a thousand feet or so away from their respective ends, and it is likely at the time of the accident the pilots could only see two runways of relative length stretching out into the infinity of darkness. That is, being on the wrong runway at this time of day would not look totally off, even from a pilot's perspective in the cockpit. Obviously, much more goes into making sure an aircraft is set for takeoff then just having things "look right," but visual cues in any activity done over and over again often give the operator an idea that something is wrong. In this case, a cursory glance by the pilots outside their window most likely would not have yielded an "oh shit" reaction until much later in the take-off - like when they realized they had about as half as much of runway available than they originally thought.
Of course, until the NTSB releases it's final report, which could take years, all of this is just speculation. The weary and frequent (or infrequent) traveler can take solace after this crash, however, because you can bet for a long while in the future making sure the correct runway is being used will weigh heavily in the minds of all pilots.

Eric Kochneff
Eric is a licensed commercial pilot

Anatomy on display is entertainment, not education

Two anatomical exhibitions, “Bodies: The Exhibition,” and “Body Worlds,” are being met with stiff controversy throughout their tours of the United States and Europe this year. The sketchy provenance of the human bodies and body parts on display has, so far, been the primary point of contention, along with the obvious ethical concerns raised by exhibiting human cadavers for entertainment and profit.

Dr. Günther von Hagens, the proprietor of the exhibition "Body Worlds" and inventor of “plastination,” which uses a polymer filler to preserve individual tissues and organs, came under scrutiny when the German magazine Der Spiegel found some of the exhibition’s bodies belonged to executed Chinese prisoners. Since then, von Hagens only gets his corpses from consenting individuals in former Soviet-bloc countries — although their “consent” and origin are usually impossible to verify because of his policy of keeping the donors anonymous, ostensibly out of respect for the dead.

One has to wonder, though, how respectful it is to pose people’s earthly remains so as to make it appear that they’re scissor-kicking a soccer ball, holding their own intestines out for you to look at, or roller-skating. Von Hagens’ rationale for the displays includes a kind of democratization of the corpse-viewing that has heretofore been reserved mostly for medical professionals. It should be clear, however, that “education” in these displays is significantly blurred with entertainment. As an NPR reporter observed, many of the people attending the current exposition in Florida came to gawk at “real dead people” in similarly garish poses. Some were more reflective, however; as one observer said, “I wonder who they are, where they came from.”

Although the people on display are quite incapable of caring about what happens to their bodies after they have died, it often strikes the living as freakish and unnatural. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs or lack thereof, many people react with a basic level of disgust and even sadness to the displays. The spectator’s use of the present tense “who they are” illustrates what seems like a basic human inability to completely dissociate human bodies from their personhood — or their minds. Although modern science continues to prove more and more that the two are the same, simple, irrational human empathy seems to dictate otherwise.

Tyler Bleau
editorial writer, columnist

Monday, August 28, 2006

‘Ethnic’ tribes may spark controversy

“Survivor,” at first glance, is in the midst of producing an enormous PR no-no. The new season, slated to air at the beginning of September, will, because of the amount of ethnic pride among the show’s applicants, divide the teams by ethnicity. The teams will be the White Tribe, the African-American Tribe, the Asian-American Tribe, and the Hispanic Tribe.
The question I’m sure you’re asking is, “What the hell are they thinking?” And while at first I wasn’t sure, I think I’m beginning to catch on.

The United States likes to pretend ethnic relations are A-OK, and while things have improved and are improving, the new season of “Survivor” could serve as a wake-up call and a sociological experiment to those unwilling and unable to discuss ethnic relations. It seems, nowadays, that the basic “safe” conversation is what was on television last night, and if what was on is making people discuss and confront controversial topics; I’m all for it. However, if “Survivor” goes as far to encourage stereotypes, then we have a serious ethical problem.

Because the only job “Survivor” has to fulfill for CBS is to make money, this could be viewed as a tasteless ploy to use controversy as a springboard into the living rooms of viewers. While attracting viewers will probably not be an issue, gaining advertisers could be.

Who is going to advertise and be financially associated with a program that may fail the very people advertisers mean to serve? It could be a painful few months for CBS — or an eye-opening experience for viewers.

John LaRue

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Cable news: a waste of air space

So what the heck? JonBenet Ramsey? Are you kidding?

I was doing something or other this past week and had CNN on in the back ground when I heard the anchor utter the "breaking" news: "Authorities in Thailand have arrested a suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey murder case."

It caused a few different reactions for me. Firstly, I had to briefly refresh my memory as to what the JBR murder case actually was. Secondly, I had to make sure I had heard it was actually Thai authorities who arrested the suspect, and for a short period of time I was trying to comprehend some reason for that. Finally, a feeling of sadness washed over me as I realized the media in this country would again be covering the shit out of this story and I would unfortunately be subjected to endless speculation about the original murder and how this suspect may or may not be somehow tied to it.

That seems to be pretty much what has happened since then. The story has also, not un-expectedly, gotten even more bizarre. The suspect in custody claims to have been the one who killed JonBenet, however, he claimed it was an "accident" induced while strangling her after some sort of sexual act. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) his ex-wife's story does not match his. She claims he was in Atlanta with her on Christmas Eve of 1996. However, that is where the Ramsey's hailed from originally, and apparently they kept a house there and moved back after their daughter was killed.        

And recently, it was announced by multiple news outlets Karr had recently visited a sex change clinic in Thailand and consulted about a sex change operation.

Yeah, that sounds about right. Whatever the final conclusion, I like what blogger Nancy Nall (link: had to say about it all: "I have no clue what's going on in this Ramsey case thing, other than perhaps this: John Mark Karr is a dark angel sent from hell to prove that watching cable news is a total waste of time."

Eric Kochneff

Monday, August 21, 2006

Computing news reflects odd interests

Are the machines learning from us? (Or, to recycle a well-used Bushism, “Is our computers learning?”) In times past, it was panicky, circulation-hungry editors and vacuous TV producers who gave voluminous and unending coverage to the most meaningless news items of their day. Remember Michael Jackson, not so long ago? He’'s famous, as well as bizarre, so his second child-molestation trial somehow warranted massive amounts of column inches and airtime. Remember the OJ trial? It got so much attention the media had to invent reasons why it was significant. (I'’ll grant that it helped illustrate the racial divide in this country, but it'’s kind of pathetic that anybody still needed illustrations of that from the trial of a previously minor celebrity.)

Now, though, Google News can help us focus on celebrity tittle-tattle without the need for any human agency. The service'’s “About Google News” page says that sophisticated algorithms are used to determine the placement of stories on the site’s main page. Incredible. Technology marches on.

Unfortunately, the site also states Google News’ choice of top stories is based on the “collective judgment of online news editors,” which probably explains why the last 10 or 12 times I'’ve logged on, there’s been some story like “"JonBenet Ramsey Suspect Picks Nose!"” right at the top of the page. As of yesterday, Google News links to 3,588 JonBenet-related items. The second top story, about nascent holy war in Iraq, links to 795. Apparently, the whole affair wasn'’t embarrassing enough for American journalism the first time around.

Clearly, the machines have learned much from us.

Jonathan Gold

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Making headlines

The July 17 front page story of the Daily Iowan read: “McCain condemns Hezbollah.”

Well no shit.
Did anyone in the entire universe find it surprising that a United States senator would side with Israel in its conflict with Middle Eastern Terrorists? Not that I necessarily disagree with his condemnation of Hezbollah, but was it really that big of a news story that it belonged as the front-page, above-the-fold headline in the DI?

The main reason it was a front page story to begin with was because McCain made the announcement in Iowa while campaigning for Mike Whalan, Republican Congressional Candidate for Iowa’s first District. It seems like the real story here was simply McCain being in the state and making comments with an international relevancy while being here. I’m not
saying this isn’t a story, only that it is a story more suitable for aside-bar or anything else that isn’t the major headline of the newspaper.
 Let me also say I am not a headline writer, nor would I want to be one, and I think the DI people usually do a pretty good job of figuring out what is newsworthy and what isn’t, along with the actual level of newsworthy-ness of a
particular piece of news.  So we can probably overlook this gaffe. Let’s just hope in the future that the lead story isn’t something all of us know is going to happen anyway.

Eric Kochneff

Sanctions on Iran should be last resort

Iran’s stonewalling of the benefits package offered by the Bush administration probably one of the most, if not the most, successful piece of proactive foreign policy the administration has produced — has weakened Iran’s position in its nuclear standoff. Russia and China, while still officially opposing sanctions on Iran, agreed last week to consider a U.N. security resolution that would require the “rogue nation” to halt certain nuclear activities or face sanctions.

This marks an important change; both countries have substantial economic interests in Iran and seem intent on forming a geopolitical counterweight to the West. The G8 countries also lent support to a Russian plan to establish international atomic-fuel centers, which would be useful in closing the gaping loophole in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that allows countries to synthesize fuel for “civilian” use. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, despite their difficulties on other issues — for instance, Russia’s recently botched entry into the World Trade Organization — both voiced serious concern July 17 that Iran had still not responded.

Iranian and Syrian support of Hezbollah, which Iran has been cozy with since its militant Islamist revolution in the ’70s, appears to be raising the stakes for what seems like an inevitable confrontation.

If sanctions are imposed, it would only serve to make Iran more irate and inward-looking. Although an oil embargo has been suggested, it is “seen as highly unlikely and … could further rattle global markets,” according to a New York Times article. Other restrictions on the table include “travel restrictions on Iranian officials, a ban on cultural exchanges and visas for Iranians, financial restrictions, [and] political sanctions.” If these sanctions were adapted without an effective oil embargo, it would be for the worst; the Iranians would still have an ample source of money for nukes, and the bile in their throats would almost certainly rise to the vomiting point.

The benefits offered by the Bush administration, on the other hand, look much better. Support for Iranian entrance into the WTO, ending a ban on selling aircraft and parts to Iran, access to nuclear reactors, and much more are all included in the incentives package, which would make crucial progress toward giving Iran a real and legitimate interest in international stability. There are certainly cultural obstacles to this approach, but these have been overcome in the past — witness the long-gone Christian ban on lending money at interest.

Iran’s shrunken, largely state-controlled economy gives it little to lose, as things are now. If Iran can be brought into the fold, the chances for peace are much better.

Tyler Bleau
Editorial writer

Hot dogs over independence?

Today is National Hot Dog Day, a wonderfully fantastic idea for a holiday. In fact, the whole premise of random holidays — National Pirate Day, etc. — is an excellent concept. I’m extremely glad great citizens of this country can counterbalance the idiocy of the holiday powers-that-be with grass-roots action.

The hot dog is one of the greatest truly American foods — the hamburger, after all, derives its origins from Hamburg, Germany. While the hot dog’s origins are also in dispute (frankfurters from Frankfurt, Germany, are the inspiration for hot dogs), the term “hot dog” itself was coined within the United States — but legend disputes just exactly who first used the term.

But I have a few problems with the date chosen as National Hot Dog day. It would make more sense to have the holiday fall on two alternate days. One, obviously, would be the date of the first printed usage of the term — admittedly, it’s hard to determine the precise date. The other, however, is my personal choice, but a present holiday already falls upon it. I speak, of course, of the Fourth of July.

Why this precise date? Well, for one thing, we need to replace this day’s pre-existing holiday. It’s stupid and irrelevant. Besides, this date holds Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog contest — by far the best event of the entire day and, perhaps, the entire year. It would only make sense for the greatest athletes in the history of the world — for the last six years, Takeru Kobayashi of Nagano, Japan — to hold one of the world’s greatest sports on the greatest holiday of them all — July 4, the new National Hot Dog Day.

Andrew Swift
Editorial writer

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

UN must take active role in peacekeeping

Where are the blue helmets? Israel appears to be fending for itself without a Lebanese soldier coming close to the chosen people’s state, but is it enough? The United Nations needs to take an active role as a peacekeeper in the Middle East. Surrounded by enemies, Israel must be assisted diplomatically, as well as militarily. Not only are its current decisions based entirely on self-preservation, but no matter what course of action it takes to succeed, it will be biased.

The magnifying glass of the United Nations would accomplish a few important things. First, it would allow the organization to be taken more seriously around the world by becoming involved in the decisions of a “Western nation.” Second, it would take power out of the hands of the United States and put it into the world community. The second point is debatable, because the United States provides the majority of U.N. funding. Both of these things are vital for the stability of the region.

But the most pressing reason for acquiring stability in the region with the United Nations is Iran, which, while years from having a nuclear armament, has made several threats against the Jewish state, claiming it will blow Israel off the map. Hezbollah can only launch small-scale attacks against Israel, but any nation, no matter how large an army, can cause devastation with a nuclear weapon. By putting a multinational force in the region, it becomes everybody’s problem, and when it'’s everybody'’s problem, the world will be forced to make a decision.

With the international community at the drawing board, a decision needs to be made that will increase stability and benefit the entire region, not just Western investors.

John LaRue