Thursday, April 27, 2006

Impeach the president

As far as rock-and-rollers go, no one brings the pain more than Neil Young. That's why I busted my pancreas when Young recently announced the creation of a new album, *Living With War*, which will include a song called, "Let's Impeach the President."

Nothing galvanizes the masses more effectively than music. So, for one of my favorite musicians to record a hopefully scathing and incendiary CD about the removal of the WORST president in the history of United States of America, yeah, I'm gonna be a bit jacked up. And, no, I am not and will never be one of those people who thinks musicians should play music and leave the politics to politicians.

America needs to wake up and remember this is a country founded on the principle of the free-flowing exchange of information and ideas, pro or con to your belief system. I'm filthy sick of individuals, particularly apologetic liberals, qualifying every inch of criticism of this administration with a declaration of their right to speak out. Of course it's your right, and you shouldn't have to explain that to trained journalists.

*Living with War* was recorded in three days with electric guitar, drums, bass, and 100-member choir — and came as a surprise to many. Young's announcement of the album has left the whole Internet community buzzed. Bits of the album will be release over the Internet and made available through streamlining, starting today.

Check out Young's interview with CNN, and pay close attention to how many times he says or alludes to his love for this country ... it's a lot. Apparently, even if you criticize your government, you can still somehow love your country.

Here are the lyrics for "Let's Impeach the President:"

    Let's impeach the president for lying
    And leading our country into war
    Abusing all the power that we gave him
    And shipping all our money out the door
    He's the man who hired all the criminals
    The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
    And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
    Of why we have to send our men to war
    Let's impeach the president for spying
    On citizens inside their own homes
    Breaking every law in the country
    By tapping our computers and telephones
    What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
    Would New Orleans have been safer that way
    Sheltered by our government's protection
    Or was someone just not home that day?
    Let's impeach the president
    For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
    Dividing our country into colors
    And still leaving black people neglected
    Thank god he's cracking down on steroids
    Since he sold his old baseball team
    There's lot of people looking at big trouble
    But of course the president is clean

Minority status

by Chad Aldeman, DI editorial writer

Republicans have no right to feel like victims in today's world. They control the White House, Senate, House of Representatives, and Supreme Court. It is fashionable to be conservative these days.

The "market" and free trade are the solution to all of our problems. Forty-five million people uninsured in this country? Why, the market will solve it with health benefit accounts. Senior citizens living longer and collecting more Social Security benefits? Why, the obvious answer is to privatize, despite senior citizens being the least likely group to be in poverty. Pollution a problem? Just sell someone the right to pollute, as we do with emissions trading.

So I'm not very sympathetic when Republicans host a "Coming Out Week" here on campus and then cry intolerance when people criticize the slogan. Yes, Republicans are the minority in this town and on college campuses nationwide. But so are blacks, gays, Latinos, men, PETA lovers, etc. The criticism the local Republicans are receiving goes back to the week's motto, the co-opting of another group's term for pride and strength. It is extraordinarily tasteless (albeit clever) for the Republicans to steal the "coming out" slogan from homosexuals, a group the national party openly fights.

William says he's tired of being subjected to ideas and movements he doesn't agree with. He equates the outrage over the slogan to distaste for the conservative agenda. He's basically arguing, as students at Georgia Tech are, that the left is being intolerant of intolerance. But no one will disapprove of the woman he marries, if he wants to have kids, or go on an Easter egg hunt.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Harvard forgery

by Barry Pump, DI columnist

If you've ever wondered how to get into Harvard, the answer may just surprise you: Lie. It seemed to have worked for Kaavya Viswanathan, who is now a sophomore at the institution.

Viswanathan, 19, published a book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. I'm sure it's intellectually challenging. But the Harvard Crimson has reported, and now the New York Times has confirmed, that Viswanathan copied large parts of her work from author Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings.

Viswanathan used her writing "talents" to get into the prestigious university, after her parents hired a personal coach who recognized her "abilities" and got her in touch with a literary agent. Oh, what it must be like to be so disadvantaged!

The thing that kills me is that these uppity types who would do anything to get into Harvard have done just about anything to get into the place. Harvard, drunk with self-satisfaction, seems to have rewarded mediocre minds with great ambition accordingly. It shows that original thinking is not what the Ivy League is all about. And the reason all this matters is that all "lesser" universities follow Harvard's lead, so we shouldn't be surprised if Iowa, when trying to compete with the big boys, does its level best to attract a plagiarist to Iowa City itself.

Woody Allen was right: Even Harvard makes mistakes.

In other news from the Ivy League, waiting to be co-opted by a Big Ten or Pac 10 university near you: Cornell University has an image problem and needs better marketing. To this group of go-getters, and to its incoming president, all I can say: Good luck, David!

Conflict of interest

by Lydia Pfaff, DI columnist

In previous columns, I've often argued, to the bereavement of many, that the United States should follow its interests first and foremost. Pursuit of a moral agenda, while not always occurring at the expense of self-interest, should be a peripheral concern. On the surface, this may seen cold-hearted; yet, as recent events indicate, my position simply reflects the reality of world politics.

Last week, Saudi Arabia and China penned substantive agreements that sought to increase cooperation and facilitate more trade. Fostering this relationship are increasingly strained relations with the United States and a growing market for oil in China.

Prince Walid, quoted in the New York Times, sums up the situation nicely. He states, "It's clear Saudi Arabia is going where its interests are, and China is going where its interests are." What Walid articulates is a classic security dilemma. While many in the United States may want to follow moral agendas, we shouldn't, because if we don't follow our own interests, the other guys will follow theirs.

The law of unintended consequences is in effect here as well. An additional reason that China is a more attractive trade partner is because there aren't strings attached regarding political reform and democratization. If we were to maintain a hard line on moral issues, such as democracy and reform, trade partners could simply look to nations that lag just as far behind in these areas.

The increasing power of China creates a situation that is likely to get worse over the next several decades. Right now, China isn't seriously challenging U.S. hegemony, yet this could change relatively quickly. This is particularly disheartening, since, as noted in the Times article, China has provided weaponry to Saudi Arabia in the past and may be a likely source in the future.

From a humanistic standpoint, of course I would like to see more respect for democracy and human rights throughout the world. However, I also think we would have less bargaining power in moral realms if we were a less powerful state. This may seem austere, yet so long as states are sovereign over themselves, this is a reality of the international system.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Low ball

by Andrew Swift, DI editorial writer

Washington tradition has taken a hit. The Congressional Softball League is due to open its season this week, with a glaring exception: the vast majority of the Republicans.

The 37-year-old league, composed of congressional aides, had been run in the spirit of bipartisanship. Indeed, left and right ballplayers alike often headed to postgame celebrations at local bars.

But that's all changed. A large number of GOP squads left the league following last season after asserting that the playoff system is socialistic. One GOP hurler wrote to Commissioner Gary Caruso that the league "is all about Softball Welfare - aiding the weak by punishing the strong." BoehnerLand Coach Gary Mahmoud wrote, "The commissioner has a long-standing policy of punishing success and rewarding failure. He's a Democrat. Waddya' expect?" The aptly named squad represents House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

I'm almost too befuddled to comment. Partisan politics have no damn business in a congressional-aide softball league. The whole affair is downright silly. But, on a serious note, the young rightists' action brings to light an interesting phenomenon evident on both sides of the aisle.

Pundits love to spin America into separate entities, namely red and blue states. Increasingly, both party leadership and base are observing the opposing party as an "other." This has potentially severe consequences. "Others" have been used throughout history by political leaders and tyrants to shore up support, often through using violent tactics. If Republicans can't even manage to play softball with the left anymore (and they sure as hell won't try to cooperatively legislate with Democrats), then America could be headed to trouble.

If you need reminder, the name of this country is the United States of America. Too much "othering," and soon we'll find our country not so united after all.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Lucky or good? Continued ...

by Barry Pump, DI columnist

My column this week was inspired by my neighborhood in the upper reaches of Washington Street and Iowa Avenue, the section of town that sustained the most damage in last week's tornado. My apartment building is well-kept and relatively new for the area, two things I credit for surviving the storm so well. I sought to explain why my apartment only had minor damage but some just a few yards away lost roofs and walls, while trying to bring about the change necessary so that more apartments can be as safe as mine was.

Dave Bowman, a manager at the International Code Council, the organization that is in charge of almost all the building codes in the United States, can put the F2 tornado Iowa City experienced last week into some pretty harsh perspective - especially when he deals mainly in hurricanes.

First, tornadoes are isolated events. You don't know when, where, or how badly they're going to hit, until they're right on top of you. Some areas, such as Oklahoma and Kansas, may get more than Iowa, but some years, they may not. It's an unpredictable storm, unlike hurricanes, which require profoundly different planning.

Second, F2 tornadoes and the 150 mph winds they can bring are small by comparison with hurricanes. It's a rare tornado, indeed, that can produce maximum winds faster than 200 mph. And it's a far cry from the maximum sustained winds over 200 mph that areas devastated by hurricanes endure for hours.

Third, tornadoes are statistically improbable, and that makes them harder to plan for. Cities cannot go around over-constructing their buildings without serious financial burdens on builders. The real-estate market would plummet if houses were so well-built as to be prohibitively expensive, especially when the threat is minimal.

The isolation of the event and the small probabilities of a severe tornado hitting a town such as Iowa City has led most experts, such as Bowman, to focus on how cities can be prepared for such catastrophes when they happen, rather than making buildings better prepared to withstand a hit.

"The best thing that Midwestern cities can do is to increase warning systems and preparedness systems and focus on protecting lives," he said from his Chicago office. "You accept whatever damage is going to be from a tornado, as sad as it is. In the Midwest, where you put the emphasis is the safety of the individuals from the accepted damage to the building.

"I know that's hard to swallow."

It's particularly hard for those who sustained considerable damage in last week's storms. But Bowman was quick to point out that no one was killed in the storms in Iowa City, and he credited Iowa City's preparedness and the current building code for that.

Doug Boothroy, Iowa City's director of Housing and Inspection Services, agreed that buildings erected under current standards fared much better than those which weren't.

"[Those most damaged] were older houses that wouldn't meet our standards today, in terms of structure itself," he told me in an interview this week. "The newer buildings in that same path fared pretty well. Generally speaking, they came through that pretty successfully."

We can admit that structural damage in the event of a direct hit is unavoidable, but what can the city do to make older structures safer?

The key thing is to not look exclusively at new construction when revising the building code. The city already does maintenance and upkeep check-ups on dwellings, every two years, but the tornado shows that, more than making sure older buildings maintain the bare minimum standards, the inspections should include regular checks for structural integrity in the event of a major storm so that the damage the city's facing now is not repeated. The building codes should then be made retroactive to ensure basic structural stability that is required in today's buildings.

Getting landlords and other real-estate owners to submit to stronger checks and possible investments in light of retroactive building codes is a tough sell. That's why it's absolutely essential that the City Council be supported by the student community and the university's Tenant-Landlord Association when the councilors make the tough decision to strengthen regulations.

The bottom line is that students shouldn't be put at risk because landlords don't ensure the safety of the older buildings they rent out. The Board of Appeals, which is in charge of the code and makes recommendations to the council, should recognize the students' interests when it revises the building code, not just the interests of developers.

Hopefully, the tornado has created an occasion for a stronger partnership between students and city officials to build a safer Iowa City.

Bad math

by Laura Michaels, DI editorial writer

Who knew that math and science teachers were worth more than educators of other subjects? This is news to me, but apparently the Des Moines Register knows something I don't.

Their staff editorial on Wednesday completely missed the mark and instead succeeded in diminishing any sort of credibility the Register had on the subject of education.

Yes, math and science are crucial to a well-rounded and knowledgeable education. However, they should not take priority over reading and English, which are equally, if not more important, to a school's curriculum - and I'm not just saying this because I'm a journalism and English major. Being literate in our society is not an option; it is a requirement for success. Without the ability to read and thus write effectively, students face nearly insurmountable difficulties in other areas of academia.

Teachers of certain subjects should not be singled out to receive an increase in pay simply because they teach math instead of English. Rather, the state legislature needs to address the needs of ALL teachers when deciding the 2006-07 budget. As a state that claims to value education and yet sits at 41st in the nation for teacher salaries, Iowa needs to put its money where its mouth is.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Great journalism

by Brendan Fitzgibbons, DI columnist

In the realm of journalistic excellence, few award-winning stories are uplifting pieces. Journalism awards like the Pulitzer Prizes are usually awarded for a newspaper's coverage of natural disasters or scandals. The New Orleans Times-Picayune won the award this year for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina, and in 2003, the Boston Globe won for its reporting of the Catholic Church sexual-abuse scandal.

For the most part, these award-winning and necessary stories are tales of exposed corruption, investigative breakthroughs, and public-service accommodations. An old journalism adage comes to mind: "Afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted."

So in the midst of Iowa City's post-tornado cleanup and reconstruction, I think it's important to take a minute and examine why independent, relentless journalism, great journalism, isn't simply a welcomed advantage to a free society but a lifeline for humanity.

The great reporting on the tornadoes that struck Iowa City came in many different forms and from many different sources. But I'm going to specifically look at The Daily Iowan's coverage of the tornadoes' impact on tenant and landlord relationships.

Disclaimer: I write (obviously) for the DI, my friends write for this paper, I have a great affinity and respect for many of the reporters here, so I'm going to be biased. My apartment was also affected by the tornadoes, and I had a tumultuous encounter with my landlord, Apartments Downtown. But because I don't really believe in the notion of objective journalism, I'm letting myself off the hook.

Through experience, I've found out that breaking a lease from your landlord is a muddled and confusing mess. The roof of my unit, 308 South Gilbert, was significantly damaged by the tornado. There was a gas leak, glass, brick and fallen roof debris every where, and for three days, there were pink signs on my building stating that entering the premises could result in injury or death.

Fortunately, I'd been checking the DI website over the weekend, and they had several articles offering instructions for tenants if their building was significantly damaged. Here's a letter to the editor from, Eric K. Fisher, supervising attorney from the UI's Student Legal Services, outlining tenants rights.

I followed the advised track from the DI and UISG and visited with Student Legal Services twice in the last three days. Our conversations were confidential, but I can say that meeting with legal counsel, whether at the university or otherwise, is a must for anyone who has questions about their living situation. The top story in today's DI is about the struggles many students are having in breaking their leases and getting fair treatment from property company. Today's editorial also follows up on the issue. The editorial calls for students to take responsibility to seek out their options as a tenant before reaching an agreement with landlords.

I couldn't agree with this statement more. It's your responsibility to know your rights, and no one will do it for you. However, I am going to take issue with the part of the editorial that says, "The apartment-management companies in Iowa City are not out to maliciously defraud students."

It is in the best interest of property-management companies such as mine, Apartments Downtown, which owns 1,500 units in Iowa City, to stifle and confuse you about your rights as a tenant. When I talked to a representative from Apartments Downtown on Tuesday, he argued that my complex was fine, accused me of trying to break my lease only because I wanted the money and to get out of class for the rest of the year, and intimidated me by threatening to counter-sue me if I was to take any legal actions against them.

By the end of our conversation I lost my cool with him, which I regret, and asked him how he sleeps at night. There is nothing that bothers me more than large, powerful entities such as Apartments Downtown, which preys on the misfortunes of others. Anyone familiar with Apartments Downtown, formally known as AUR, knows that this is a company who thrives on overcharging students and ripping them off on their deposits. Why do they do it? Because nothing is stopping them.

Enter great journalism. Journalism is one of the last remaining checks we as a society have on companies like Apartments Downtown. While none of the DI's coverage specifically targets Apartments Downtown, just by following student's conflicts with landlords, and informing them of their rights, they have done a tremendous public service to students and citizens. If I could give you a Pulitzer, I surely would.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Looking back

The April 13 storm that struck Iowa City had a profound effect on students, residents, and the DI. For our part, the Opinions staff offered thoughts on the storm and its aftermath in the following web-only content, which was posted on along with much more in news, photos and features.

- Steve Sherman, "Questions to ask"

- Brendan Fitzgibbons, "My hometown"

- DI editorial board, "Disaster shows community's character"

Defending the "Gawkers."

Holla at your local Press-Citizen!

Read this article.

Now roll with me here:

Give some mad props to all the people at the Press Citizen for some objective journalism!

Apparently, I didn't get the memo that University students are inherently drunk idiots who all own cell phones and digital cameras and video cameras and only care about our plasma screen TVs. That's funny, I don't even own a camera.

We University students "[party] as we walked" around the downtown, because, you know, party is such a GREAT verb that people use all the time nowadays. And hey, it's not like our friends were the ones hit, or that student neighborhoods took the worst of the tornado damage. It wasn't like we were trying to inspect the damage of the town we cared about, or that we were walking to our friends' places to make sure they were still alive. Or that we were jamming up cell phone lines in order to try to reach these friends, or our parents who watched this all on the news.

Nope, not true, all we did was get drunk and get in the way of the police. All we cared about was getting drunk and partying on the rubble of our friend's houses. Like those kids that set up couches so as to block off a street littered with downed power lines? Yep, they were apathetic, drunk idiots with no concern for anything except their beer bottles. Or Luke Walker, an EMT student at the UIHC, who went around Washington Street right afterwards, seeking those who needed medical attention, even though his house was right in the damage path of the tornado? Yeah, I can't even tell you how little he cares. Or Mike Charles, a UISG senator whose apartment above Martini's was destroyed, who helped the displaced in the IMU even though his home was obliterated. Yep, another apathetic, drunk, idiotic piece of undergrad trash.

And you know, since the streets were so packed that night, and since law enforcement was vastly outnumbered by student pedestrians, that thousand-strong throng of students managed to pull off a totally sweet riot.

...oh wait, no we didn't. Because we're not stupid.

But we did loot, right? Actually, no, we didn't - the student who stated in Friday's DI that the Liquor House "opened like a can of tuna" was probably referring to the structure itself, which, quite frankly, did open up like a can of tuna.

I talked to the people working at the Liquor House that night, one of whom was a former coworker, and they said that looting was minimal, and that they parked a truck so as the make sure no looting would happen, and even then, most people walked by peacefully.

The downtown crowd, "mostly of University of Iowa students," didn't riot, didn't extensively loot, and didn't get arrested en masse, either.

But those guys I saw driving around the area around the 900 block of Iowa Avenue on Saturday - they were driving a pick-up truck while their friends sat in the back seat on lawn chairs, drinking beer. Heck, they looked about 50.

That's a bit old for students, isn't it?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Storm center

by Jayne Lady, DI editorial writer

While wandering through the flotsam and jetsam surrounding my apartment on Washington Street after the storm passed through, I was struck by people's inappropriate sense of being personally wronged. Some residents seemed to feel that officials weren't doing enough to immediately alleviate their suffering - or at least their discomfort.

I shared one girl's honest astonishment that 911 was busy. (I didn't know that was even possible.) But I was surprised to hear someone else sneer at the fact the fire people didn't materialize as soon as he called. "Good thing no one was hurt - they didn't get here for an hour," he complained. Uh, dude, they were probably helping someone who actually was hurt.

I was as unnerved as anyone else who found themselves crouching in a bathtub while what sounded like a locomotive screamed through their home, and I appreciate every offer I've gotten to help clean up my apartment, but I also realize that there are probably many other Iowa City residents who need assistance a lot more than I do.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fashion sense

by Chad Aldeman, DI editorial writer

For those of you who don't know me, I must admit I'm a pretty trendy guy. I follow all the latest fads. You know, I've got my Ugg boots. Those are my actual legs - pretty cute huh?

And I've never been hotter than when I wear my leggings under jean skirts. But it is, like, too hot for me to wear them now.

The sunshine has me shopping for sunglasses, and BIG is in! I haven't decided on what to buy yet though. Is this the right size? I'm going for this look. I wonder if they have it in male.

Any one want to help me pick out a pair? I've narrowed it down to this model designed to look like eyewear for policemen. David Beckham wears 'em, and they cost about $215. Or, I could go with a pair actually called "Big Bug-Eye Sunglasses" for only around $25. That is what I want, right? To look as close to a bug as possible?

I'm so cool I'm melting your face off.

Valuing family

by Claire Miller, DI editorial writer

I usually get my news from CNN, or the New York Times. But occasionally, when I'm feeling like getting my blood pumping, I enjoy checking out the news website of my favorite right-wing, evangelical Christian organization: Focus on the Family. It gives me a sort of guilty, livid thrill.

According to this week's stories on its Citizen Link News archive ("Helping You Defend the Family"), it is "anti-family" that a French airline is raising money to help the United Nations buy condoms for children in Third World countries. Oh, of course! Responsible family planning is obviously very bad for families. And the fact that the Episcopal Church USA is considering three gay bishop candidates in California seems to be harmful to American families as well.

What is up with this "family" word, exactly? I just don't understand why the term "family values" is synonymous with "conservative." I can think of tons of liberal policies that do just as much for families as right-wing ones.

Such as raising the minimum wage, which would allow, perhaps, a single mother to quit her second job, giving her time to put her child to bed each night. How would that do anything but further family values? Or the new, bipartisan movement in Congress to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants. That would certainly help families, who might not have to worry about a parent being deported.

So why does Focus on the Family, a group that so closely clings to contemporary conservative philosophy that it somehow uses the Bible to attack things like environmental laws and multiculturalism, get to claim the domain name If the Republican Party, and groups such as Focus on the Family, are so concerned about promoting family values, then they should go full circle, and consider all policies that do so, not just ones that adhere to a particular political agenda. Otherwise, it's pretty clear that they're hijacking words like "family" and "values" in order to defend an agenda that really does nothing constructive to protect these things at all.


by Erik Owomoyela, DI Opinions editor

Wednesday's 1,000 Man March, by UI students calling for greater diversity, harked back to the glory days of activism, back when our parents (or their big brothers and sisters, anyway) were our age - a form of revolutionary nostalgia that isn't too unusual. Of course, for all their passion, the 1960s were not a very good decade to be alive, as evidenced in part by the number of Americans who didn't survive it. For better or worse, many causes of that generation don't translate too well into ours.

Diversity is important, and especially here. The UI lies in a very homogenous region, and the school should seek to widen students' perspectives both in and out of the classroom. But diversity is a hard thing to quantify. Many programs focus on race, aiming to seek and support non-white students to attain their goals. There is value in this approach, but it is an imperfect solution at best. At worst, it reinforces one of the core ideas that so ingrained racism into the minds of many Americans not so long ago.

Many ethnic groups in America do share a distinct culture, which is in part thanks to our sordid history of segregation and evidence of how far we still have to go. But even this is simplistic. My father is a naturalized citizen who immigrated from Nigeria; his ancestors weren't slaves, and he received an elite education courtesy of the British Empire. From a cultural standpoint, he could hardly have less in common with the likes of, say, Al Sharpton.

Indeed, this can get pretty silly. The New York Times wrote on Tuesday about a developing trend with families using DNA tests to see if they could claim minority status whatever perks come with it. Naturally, if you need a DNA test to know that you're a minority, then you probably weren't disadvantaged much because of your race. But even if you don't need the genetic code, your appearance alone doesn't determine your culture.

Back in high school, every now and again I would head to the district office for a special event aimed at African American students from all four high schools. (This was Lincoln, Neb., so there weren't many of us.) It was well-intended and helpful for some; if I had faced intolerance growing up, it might have helped me as well. Instead, it felt like a day focused on how I was different from the people I had grown up around, based on an artificial and anachronistic distinction.

The dream of many civil-rights pioneers was a world where the color of one's skin did not define them. Their movement wasn't about diversity - it was about rights. Race-based programs have helped ease the tensions that ruled those times, but real diversity can't be measured that simply; and where we succeed in wiping out racial barriers, the distinction becomes nearly meaningless. It wouldn't hurt to start taking this into account.

News sense

by Steve Sherman, DI columnist

This is a columnist writing about column writing. If you don't care to read, then that's fine by me - go look at this, and call it a day.

But regarding column writing in this newspaper, I'm gonna do a little bit of research right here.

First, this is a Google news search for "george w. bush."

This is a Google news search for "iowa city, ia."

Regardless of the news itself, notice that the search for Bush yielded 24,200 responses, and the search for Iowa City wielded a meager 292. There are already 24,000 more articles written about our president then there are about the place we live in.

This place, being Iowa City, is not being represented as much in the national scope - and for obvious reasons. The mandates of Mayor Wilburn do not, it is safe to assume, have an affect on foreign aid received in Kabul. Bush serves more people, and his policies affect people worldwide. Iowa City has a very nice independent bookstore and a bar whose name is an oral sex reference.

But the fact remains that there are only two publications in our city, and when columnists choose to ignore what happens in this city, their voices are only added to 24,200 decibel din of perspectives on national issues. Though I am confident in the skills of our writers, it's safe to say that an opinion of Mark Simons does not carry as much weight as that of, say, David Brooks - simply, not as many people read the DI.

I'm saddened every day I read a column about George Bush, or FEMA, or Bill Frist, because when the columnists choose to ignore local issues, they allow Iowa City to become a non-space, only a backdrop for them to form their thoughts. It is not an interactive urban space - it is only an apartment and a school. And so when critical thinking of skills are never applied to the very space they live, they are, in effect, deeming it as worthless. Which is odd, considering the title of the paper in which their columns are published is called "THE DAILY IOWAN."

And though praise is due for those columnists who raise a reader's consciousness (for example, giving a perspective on national issue which they never heard or a new fact with which to view a situation), I believe these analytical skills have other uses, and its saddening to see columnists who never address local concerns. You can act globally, but, please, columnists, think locally.

Bar-crawl solutions

by Brendan Fitzgibbons, DI columnist

UI students have unknowingly developed a social system that will permanently end all inequalities in race, class and gender.

What is this impenetrable social scheme where petty and arbitrary differences are brushed aside for a more just and level communal society? Communism? Socialism? Lycanthropism? Bar crawl t-sheets, my friends, bar crawl T-shirts.

When I was out and about Iowa City last weekend, I noticed an alarming trend in bar patrons and citizens: Every one was wearing a bar crawl T-shirt. Swarms of people decked in red, black, blue, turquoise, light green, white, etc., divided and conquered every bar and communal area in Iowa City. That's when it hit me. This is the answer to every significant social problem facing America today.

Did I say America? I meant the world.

Here's how it works. We (by we, I mean me and a couple of my friends) or the government, it doesn't matter, randomly assign and pass out bar crawl T-shirts to every student at the University of Iowa. Every student must wear their designated shirt everyday for a month. Then we rotate shirts through, keeping everyone excited and engaged in the system.

After a month, each student gets a newly designed bar crawl T-shirt. Now, we won't be able to guarantee that each student gets a new color, but we will try our damnedest to accommodate everyone.

I know many of you are thinking that this sounds a lot like school uniforms. Not true. School uniforms are boring and often checkered. Our bar crawl T-shirts will feature an array of designs, from beer popsicles to drunken Super Mario Brothers characters, to animate keg figures and pictures of discombobulated prostitutes. Our shirts can and will be everything - everything but checkered.

It might take several months for the idea to take hold, but here are the desired social implications of the bar crawl T-shirt system. We as a community will now only judge people based on their shirt design and color. For example, when you approach someone on the street and they're wearing a light blue bar crawl T-shirt with the slogan, "Billy's Shit Tanked Booze-A-Palooza," with a drunken Billy-goat character on the front of the shirt you'll know how to place said person within the social schema of Iowa City.

Race, gender, class, who cares? All you'll need to know are what color shirt, and what kind of design. Describing people will sound something like, "Yeah, he's black shirt, with 'Snowshoeing for a Drunken America,' little polar bear on the front." The person is the shirt.

From strictly an aesthetic perspective, it looks like this shirt system will create entirely new social divisions instead of eradicate them. Well yes, that's the entire point. Now we can slice and dice ourselves up in new creative and colorful ways, instead of the boring old way of stereotyping, "You're a black guy. I'm a white guy. We're different." Under the new system, we'll all be different in creative ways, and at least we won't have to worry about being colorblind.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Making the grade

by Laura Michaels, DI editorial writer

Under a new rule completed by the state Legislature Monday, Iowa high-school athletes will now be required to do something that should have been demanded of them all along: pass all their classes.

With the approval of the state's first change to athletics eligibility since 1992, student-athletes who have one failing grade at the end of the semester will be ineligible to compete for the next four weeks of the following semester. This change has been a long time coming and demonstrates to the public Iowa's commitment to education.

As someone who played two sports and trained year-round, I can say, with firsthand experience, that it can be tough to manage your time, but when something is important to you, you find a way. If high schools have any hope of preparing students for college, then expectations must be set at a level where students must work to reach them. Participating in sports is a privilege, something that must be earned; student-athletes will appreciate their opportunities more when they actually have to work for them.

What disturbs me most are those who oppose the stricter rules. If all that schools expect is substandard work, then that is all they will receive. Schools must be committed to the duel responsibility of educating students and providing them the opportunities to succeed in athletics. Yes, there are student-athletes who simply are not academically minded; however, these students should not just be allowed to pass through the system because they can play sports.

Clearly, student-athletes know the value of hard work - they just need to direct some of that work to the classroom.

TV time

by Andrew Swift, DI editorial writer

I gleefully read ABC's announcement that it will place online streaming video of popular television shows the day after they air. Now, I don't even watch "Desperate Housewives" or "Lost" or any other mind-dumbing show ABC airs, but the prospect of increasing access to television shows is a dream come true, for the networks and the viewer.

Yes, commercials will be included in the stream; and, no, they can't be fast forwarded through. However, I'd rather watch a program on my computer when I wanted - with commercials - than not be able to watch it at all. The bigger "worry" is that advertisers will be hesitant to sign on. They should be dreaming of an even greater number of mindless drones saturated with their same, horrible commercials. I could go on for days panning ads, but, sadly, they work. News flash to advertisers whoring their products: You're being offered a huge opportunity. Take it. (And make mad cash.)

We've all had occasions where we couldn't catch a show because of class, work, etc. In the digital-super-high-tech-awesome age we live in, this is criminal. ABC realizes the Internet is the future - CBS' March Madness on Demand drew more than 15 million viewers. The expansion of information is a key to future societal growth. The goal of the 21st century should be increasing the wealth of knowledge: democracy by information. While popular television shows may not exactly fit the bill, it's a start. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Immigration mitigation?

by Lydia Pfaff, DI columnist

Last week's rise and rapid meltdown of immigration reform is unfortunate, on many levels. The largely bipartisan reform measures sought to tackle the serious problems associated with illegal immigration that for years have been swept under the mat.

Immigration reform should be of particular concern for those of us in Iowa, given the impressive influx of Latinos to the Midwest in the past 15 years. The familiar Postville situation displays the consequent tensions that can result whenever a large immigrant population attempts to assimilate into a previously homogenous population, as much of our state is.

For Iowa, in particular, a stronger embrace of immigrants could provide innumerable benefits for the economic conditions in the state. Despite steady economic development in eastern Iowa, Iowa Workforce Development estimates that the state will face a major labor shortage by 2012. Immigration reform - which, as President Bush has proposed, would grant citizenship to some illegal immigrants, coupled with greater support for immigrant workers - could help to stall this attrition of the Iowa workforce.

Recent demonstrations by immigrants across the country demonstrate the saliency of this issue. It is unfortunate that such an important piece of legislation was derailed by congressional politics.

God help us

by Barry Pump, DI columnist

Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh is reporting in Monday's New Yorker that President Bush and his cadre of warmongers in the White House and Pentagon are making plans to invade Iran if the Middle Eastern country continues to pursue a nuclear program that it maintains is peaceful (or, knowing Bush, probably even if it doesn't). Indeed, the war plans do not rule out the use of tactical nuclear missiles by U.S. forces. Outside of the obvious problems this causes, and the numerous good reasons there are to angrily denounce such a disastrous policy, what I find most interesting is the primary reason Bush is so eager to push the button.

In the article, a "government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon" said Bush was convinced that he should do "what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do" and "that saving Iran is going to be his legacy." Now, let's break this down.

First, the reason no Democrat or Republican in the future would have the "courage" to invade or nuke Iran is because of the disasters of Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush created the current political situation that reduced the public's will for such a military action, just as I wrote in a Dec. 2 column. As I wrote then, "This increased burden of justification may be a victory for peace. But it is certainly a victory for vulnerability." Bush would undoubtedly see his approval rating drop into the low single digits if he carried out such a plan. A lame-duck Bush is dangerous, especially considering congressional Republicans are already trying to distance themselves from his legacy. He has nothing left to lose. And for Bush, the freedom from public opinion or negative personal/political consequences translates into "courage" to take out yet another sovereign nation, years away from posing a significant threat - if it ever will.

Second, and this is even more frightening, Bush has what one member of Congress called a "messianic vision." Bush honestly thinks that "saving Iran is going to be his legacy." He's going to be their savior. Illusions of grandeur aside, this is outrageously dangerous thinking, but it fits absolutely with the bizarre form of evangelical Christianity sweeping Republicans. These folks, Tom DeLay included, think they're going to turn America into a "God-centered nation" and infuse the rest of the world with its "values." This form of politics completely turns the framework of our liberal democracy on its head. Instead of being a government of mutually acceptable reasons, which then provide justifications for governmental actions - a government that thrives on the open and competitive marketplace of ideas - we've become a country with a divine mission, and all those who disagree need to get out of the way.

The United States is on a frightening path, but there can be hope, if the Democrats can get their act together. If the Democrats can wrangle control of the House and Senate away from the faltering, wacko-right of the Republican Party this November, then our democracy can start to return to its theoretical foundations. Bush's plans would be stopped in their tracks, and investigations would shine the cleansing light of day into an amazingly secretive and increasingly macabre administration hell-bent on a quixotic and medieval vision of religious world domination. This November, a vote for the Democratic Party is a vote for American democracy itself.

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Old time

by Steve Sherman, DI columnist

I saw this picture for the first time a few days ago. It's of the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Mike Jeffries. This is the stuff of nightmares.

Wait for it ...

Wait ...

Wait ...

OK, here is it.

Now, you want to know the really scary part?

That man is 61 years old. Botox Apocalypse 2k6.

Brace yourselves, buckaroos. The rich and elderly of the future are going to resemble Gary Busey Pod People.

Apparently, I missed the notice telling me that having money and being old gave you full entitlement to become an X-Man. I miss George Burns - by the time he kicked it, the old fella was rolling like a straight-up raisin. Mike Jeffries looks puppy-dog sad, like your friend's Dad from high school who embarrassed his son by putting on Salt 'n' Pepa tapes during the drive to the movie theater, the same dad who featured the word "fresh" in his vocabulary. Only this friend's dad has money so he can buy designer clothes and surgeons who will gleefully channel Union-Carbide detritus into his jowls.

Not optimistic

by Barry Pump, DI columnist

The Department of Labor released Friday its jobs report for the month of March. Showing that 211,000 jobs were created in March, President Bush lauded the report and the "economic growth" through his administration, and Treasury Secretary John Snow said the jobs creation was proof that Bush's economic policies were working and called on Congress to make Bush's tax cuts permanent. Despite the administration's spin, however, a simple analysis of the report (linked above) shows the economic situation is not nearly as optimistic.

In a media opportunity to reduce the negative impact of bad news on Iraq (more than 70 people were killed in a suicide bombing Friday at a mosque), more bad news on immigration reform, and the growing furor over Bush's involvement in the Valerie Wilson-CIA link scandal, Bush said the newly released economic data showed an "economic resurgence that is strong, broad, and benefiting all Americans." But it really isn't.

Of the 211,000 jobs created, the increase was "concentrated in the service-providing sector," according to the report. That means 42,000 of those jobs were created in the "leisure and hospitality" sector, which means jobs cleaning rooms in hotels, waiting tables, and helping the wealthy (those primarily benefiting from the tax cuts Snow wants to make permanent) spend their money. And, speaking of the wealthy spending their money, an additional 29,000 jobs were created in the retail-trade sector. So, if you want to get a job at the Gap, chances are you'll be able to find one. Manufacturing jobs, on the other hand, which helped create the large middle class in this country, were "little changed" over the course of the month and have decreased by more than 56,000 jobs over the past year. Outsourcing, anyone?

If Bush had continued to read the report, he also would have seen that the average hourly earnings of average workers increased by a paltry 3 cents last month. And the average weekly earnings increased only 0.2 percent over the month, to $557.36. That means, if the average worker works 50 weeks in a year, he only makes $27,868. Note also that the tax cuts that Bush and Snow are touting don't help anyone making that little. And that means the tax cuts Bush and Snow are crediting for this "economic growth" won't help the average worker. The non-growth also means the tax cuts should not be made permanent, because the growth Bush and Snow think is going on is modest at best.

Wall Street took all this so-called great economic news particularly harshly. Both the NASDAQ composite and Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.9 percent of their values on April 7, wiping out all of the previous week's gains. And if it couldn't get any worse, the U.S. House of Representatives failed to consider a $2.8 trillion budget resolution that angered conservatives for adding $3 trillion to the national debt over five years and angered moderates for slicing health, education, and labor programs in the name of so-called fiscal responsibility. I would also like to note that the man in charge of the hideous budget proposal that collapsed on the floor is Iowa gubernatorial candidate Jim Nussle, who handled the process as poorly as any ineffectual leader.

Just when you think things couldn't get any worse for President Bush and the Republicans in Washington, their spectacular incompetence comes shining through brighter than ever. And we're along for the unfortunate ride. Is it any wonder why 70 percent of the nation think we're headed in the wrong direction?

Grad grades

by Steve Sherman, DI columnist

So ... no one's getting into grad school.

I've counted. Out of 14 friends of mine who applied, only four were accepted, anywhere. Granted, this is anecdotal evidence, but it comes from kids looking to go into a wide range of specialties: M.B.A., M.D., M.A., M.E., J.D., and M.F.A. programs all over the country - it's all-inclusive.

The first question I want to ask is: Have even grad-school admissions people submitted themselves to that "school reputation" trash and accepted kids from other schools with "better reputations" who are equally qualified as a UI grad? Will Johnny X from Northwestern with a 3.5 get in over Jane Z from Iowa with a 3.7, even if both have equally good essays, volunteer experience, etc.? It's a question I'm wondering about, and I'm hoping I didn't make a bad choice going here instead of other, "better" schools.

Not that there's anything "better" about any other school, at all, whatsoever. There's that old "college is what you make of it" line ringing in your head right now. But some parents will do anything they can to get their kids to matriculate in the place with the highest ranking in U.S. News & World Report. They want the "best for their child," even if it is not, actually, what is best for their child.

I say this because, growing up in an upper-middle-class town, I saw many of my classmates go to the "best school" that accepted, usually relying on the famous U.S. News rankings in order to determine what school was "best." Guidance counselors were more like professional athletes' agents, targeting clients towards colleges rather than teams. The real-estate agents, in pamphlets they gave to families looking to move into town, would mention how our high school regularly sent kids to Ivy League schools. It was all a ploy for higher property taxes and a better ranking for our high school in New Jersey Monthly. Students' free wills were sacrificed to pressuring guidance counselors and overbearing parents.

Thankfully, my parents didn't give a shit about this school-reputation bullshit, but, on one occasion, my guidance counselor pulled me out of pre-calc and questioned me for half an hour on why I was considering the University of Iowa over the University of Michigan, another school at which I was accepted. My counselor showed me a recruiting video Michigan had sent our school.

"Other places can take you further than Iowa," he said.

And, with this wave of grad-school denials, I sincerely hope my guidance counselor isn't being proven right. And I don't suggest that we pander to the rankings game; rather, maybe better grad-school counseling for undergrads would prove ideal - or university-advised information sessions.

Change, and staying the same

by Lydia Pfaff, DI columnist

The recent election of the centrist Kadima Party in Israel is not likely to placate the decades-long conflict in the area. This dispute is primarily about territory and, of course, power. The fact has not changed.

The discourse regarding the creation of a Palestinian state often focuses on the responsibilities of the Palestinians — for example, ensuring security and tempering the militancy of Hamas. These are obviously legitimate concerns. A less-discussed aspect of the question, however, is that a viable territory for a nation-state does not exist. Despite Israeli withdrawals from the Gaza Strip, the territory proposed for such a state is wrought with discontinuity and not economically productive. The system of Israeli roads and checkpoints makes movement nearly impossible, and, subsequently, the options for economic development are meager.

Furthermore, the infrastructure in Palestinian society is a long way from being developed enough. A good discussion of this can be found in Glenn E. Robinson's Building a Palestinian State: The Incomplete Revolution. Robinson discusses the attempts made at creating state institutions and why most of these attempts have been thwarted. The creation of Hamas, a product of this phenomenon, is discussed, also.

Despite excited talk following the Gaza pullouts, unfortunately, a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not any closer. Not until there are acceptable terms for each party we will see peace.

Friday, April 7, 2006

Death, life, memory

by John Heineman, DI columnist

I don't know how to comprehend death. To me, it is so blunt, so empty, and so awkward. I struggle to wonder why someone who had so many dreams and such great potential was taken away from us over spring break. I am referring to Brooke Walton, who I only had the pleasure to know for the past three months in two of my seminars. Yet, because of the stimulating conversations in both classes, I was able understand what she thought of this world - even more than I understand some of my good acquaintances.

Consequently, I welcome all of you who are asking the same questions to join Brooke's family and friends for a celebration of her life, which will be held on April 10 at 7 p.m. in the commons on the third floor of the Blank Honors Center. The program will include speakers (both students and staff) from the Belin-Blank Center, the Mock Trial team, and Residence Services. There will also be music, a slide show, and a dessert reception following in the sixth-floor conference room.

Life is too precious to live without meaning, and I'm glad Brooke understood.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

DeLay departure

by Andrew Swift, DI editorial writer

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced late Monday night that he will not run for re-election and will resign his position representing Texas' 22nd District. DeLay has been indicted for money-laundering in a case involving state legislative candidates' campaign funds. He is also closely linked with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff - two of his former staffers recently pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

It is likely DeLay saw the writing on the wall. After easily winning the GOP primary for his seat, he faced a strong Democrat challenger. Polls had consistently shown that DeLay no longer had majority support in his district.

DeLay's blatant corruption should not be construed as a one-man show. While media spinmeisters will focus on DeLay's cronyism, they will undoubtedly miss the larger picture. DeLay's alleged lawbreaking has been consistently defended and covered up by the House Republican majority. GOP lawmakers even went as far to change the ethics rules so that a majority leader could serve in the post under indictment. (The rule change was stopped, after general outrage.)

Sadly for the Republican revolutionaries who swept to power in 1994, it appears that the GOP will not create a permanent congressional majority. This is not to say that Democrats have not been, and will not be in the future, corrupt. It's just that the GOP has been exponentially better at it - whereas the Democrats took decades to corrupt the House, it barely took Republicans a single decade.

But most worrying about DeLay is his underhanded tactics to rewrite the Texas districting map, ostensibly removing five Democratic representatives from Congress. I'm only mildly saddened for political reasons; the greater danger is the ability of elected officials to redistrict their states for their party's political gains. This year, only a few dozen congressional seats will legitimately be in play, because of widespread gerrymandering. This creates corruption problems, as incumbents are tainted by Washington lobbyism and close contacts with influence peddlers.

Electoral reform is desperately needed. While my dream goal would be to replace the single-member district system with a proportional representation system, the first problem to fix is partisan redistricting.

Sunday, April 2, 2006

Bull Run

by Brendan Fitzgibbons, DI columnist

In the run up to the war with Iraq, President Bush behaved much like a blind kid chasing after an ice-cream truck.

The New York Times revealed on March 27 the details of a memo about a closed-door meeting between Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The meeting is significant, because the two leaders were publicly pursuing a policy of disarmament in Iraq, but the memo details a clearly different strategy.

During the meeting, which took place in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, Bush made it very clear to Blair that his intention was to invade Iraq, with or without a second U.N. resolution. The author of the memo, David Manning, wrote that the United States had already set in stone an invasion date. "The start date of for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March. This was when the bombing would begin."

Bush even went as far as saying that he would provoke a conflict with Iraq if necessary. Two of the ways in which the president suggested they might provoke Iraq were painting a United States surveillance plane the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire from Iraq and assassinating Saddam Hussein.

This is the second memo released within the last year detailing the Bush administration's relentless, bull-headed determination to invade Iraq, regardless of whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. The first memo, dubbed the Downing Street memo, was released last May.

The Times article is an astonishing revelation that apparently no one cares about. Since the article's publication, I haven't seen nor heard a single mention of it anywhere else in our media, TV, Internet, or print. Are there more serious matters in our national consciousness, right now, than the president seriously suggesting to the British Prime Minister fraudulent and life-threatening ways to coax Iraq into the war the president already had planned?