Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Congressional Comedy

The Bush Administration's use of the national security card to
justify all sorts of intrusive, unethical and illegal intelligence
programs has already crossed the line from depressing to comical.
Congress, for its part, continues to bend over backward, ensuring its
continuing irrelevancy for our unitary executive. Shockwaves of glee
pulsated through my body when I read their latest, joint smash comedy

The new revelation goes something like this: The CIA and the Treasury
Department are examining international databases of money-transfer
records, undoubtedly to "search for terrorists." Well, I really didn't
give a damn about the story, seeing as how nothing from this
administration surprises me anymore, no matter how blatantly
authoritarian. But then, Representative Peter T. King (R-N.Y.),
Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, made the all-too
depressing disclosure nothing short of hilarious.

The report was presented last week in the *New York Times* and other
newspapers. Rep. King, as quoted in the *Washington Post*, is
advocating seeking criminal charges against the *Times*.

Seriously. He wants to take the *Times* to court. "We're at war, and
for the *Times* to release information about secret operations and
methods is treasonous," King said.

Yep. He's right. It's that damn liberal media again, always reporting facts.

I don't want to hear the utter blather about "striking a delicate
balance." If we keep slashing individual liberties and rights, then
"the terrorists have won." I will now vomit after writing that phrase.

Now, I may be wrong, but I do recall freedom of the press being in
the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. In case you don't remember,
that's part of the U.S. Constitution, a document establishing the
procedural and structural framework of our system of government. Now,
while admittedly there are outdated parts, I've always been of the
opinion the First Amendment is a pretty solid idea. But hey, what do I
know? I'm just a journalist.

Andrew Swift
Editorial writer

Not quite a Cyclone state

Yes, the Iowa State Cyclones did indeed stun the Iowa football team — and its fans across the nation — with a 23-3 win Sept. 10 to reclaim the Cy-Hawk trophy. This fact is theirs to hold over the Hawkeyes — until the teams meet again this fall, in what will (I hope) be a thorough trouncing of ISU.

It seems, however, bragging rights aren’t enough for the Cyclones. Next month, an all-too-visible reminder of last season’s loss will take up residence just south of Cedar Rapids on Interstate 380. A billboard reading “It’s a Cyclone State,” featuring members of Iowa State’s football team holding the trophy after their win, will essentially desecrate what is, and always will be, a “Hawkeye State.”

To a certain extent, it is understandable for the Cyclones to flaunt their latest win. Iowa leads the series 35-18, and ISU often takes a back seat to the Hawks in sports recognition. However, the Cyclones’ record against Iowa in no way justifies the attempt to rename a state that will forever be black and gold.

The Cyclones may be hoping to incite anger and further irritate Hawkeye fans by placing the billboard in the UI’s backyard. Instead, it is pity Hawk fans should feel for Iowa State, because, while they continue to cling to their small victory, those of the Hawkeye persuasion have decades of success to reflect upon as we ready for the coming season.

Laura Michaels
Opinions editor

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Vilsack viable candidate

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was recently in Washington, D.C., attempting to further his expected 2008 presidential candidacy. I'm not going to write off Vilsack, as most pundits (and rank-and-file Democrats) have done. Frankly, his primary message, stressing restoration of community, appeals to me, and he's proven himself a competent governor. Perhaps more important, he has governed largely (especially compared to the federal level) non-partisan, a factor I believe will play well with voters in 2008.

But in D.C., Vilsack made it clear he believes ‘ordinary people’ should lead the direction the Democratic Party will take. Again, this is an agreeable concept. Pundits, consultants, and other ‘insiders’ have destroyed the party of the people. However, Vilsack, himself, is the chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, the ultimate 'insider' Democratic clique. While he attempts to spin himself a populist, it seems quite hollow.

Regardless, I respect Vilsack, and if he were the nominee, I'd vote for him. (This is not true of every potential Democratic nominee.) But he needs to start living up to his message. He can start by resigning his position as chair of the DLC.

Andrew Swift
Editorial Writer

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Sporting unity

The World Cup is in full swing. Now, for much of my life I've held a
disdainfully typical American view of soccer. But something got me hooked
this time around.

That “thing” was the Ivory Coast national team. Admittedly, the squad has
already been eliminated from getting out of their group, but they have
looked one of the more impressive teams in the entire tournament. I
probably wouldn't care, or actively support (I’ve even contemplated buying an Ivory Coast Jersey) the small African nation were it not for the circumstances surrounding their qualification. The Ivory Coast is still embroiled in a brutal civil war, with a tenuous cease-fire holding the country together.

You see, upon qualifying for the tournament, the country celebrated for days. The soccer team made clear to President Laurent Gbagbo that national unity was important to them. And the country coalesced around soccer.

Many people argue sports are essentially trivial and matter little in the grand scheme of things. To a point, this criticism may be correct. But for many others, sports teams represent something with which to identify, and allow us to forget about daily trials. Every time I see the World Cup commercial with Ivorians dancing in the streets and waving the national flag, I nearly tear up. (I'm a sap like that). So while sports may be trivial to some, they are truly a matter of life or death for others.

Andrew Swift
Editorial writer

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Fat not worth lawsuit

Kentucky Fried Chicken is being sued by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a healthy eating group. The group, which has campaigned against saturated fats since the ‘80s, claims KFC’s use of trans-fat in chicken preparation makes it unfit for human consumption. While trans fatty acid is extremely unhealthy, it is legal and deeming it “unfit for human consumption” is a bit extreme.

The National Academy of Science recommends people avoid trans-fats entirely, and the FDA has required food manufacturers to label foods with trans-fats since January 1, 2006. But restaurants are not subject to the same nutritional information regulations, and KFC has not done anything illegal.

A doctor involved with the group says he wouldn’t have eaten KFC if he knew how it was prepared. But KFC has never advertised its food as being transfat-free. What expectations can people have about the healthy nature of fried chicken? People trying to eat healthy shouldn’t be eating at KFC in the first place, and it’s easy to assume this lawsuit is just as frivolous as KFC’s lawyers say.

A similar suit was brought against Kraft Foods in 2003 over the use of trans-fat in Oreos. Kraft said they would look for ways to eliminate trans-fat from the cookies and the suit was dropped. If the Center for Science in the Public Interest is hoping for a similar outcome that will benefit the general public, then this lawsuit is worthwhile.

Jayne Lady
Editorial Writer

Monday, June 12, 2006

Time is up for Wal-Mart

The Iowa City City Council has had countless opportunities to yield to the wishes of the community and not allow a new Wal-Mart Supercenter to be built south of Highway 1. For one reason or another, the council has chosen to disregard the more vocal portion of Iowa City citizens opposed to the supercenter.

Luckily, the anti-Wal-Mart deities have once again dropped a possible solution in the laps of Iowa City’s leaders. The recent request by Wal-Mart to extend the current July 31 purchase agreement deadline consequently provides the council with the opportunity to deny the request and force Wal-Mart to buy the land from the city by the set date.

Why would denying this request be a plus for Iowa City? Because it would force Wal-Mart to wait until recent appeals sent to the Iowa Supreme Court to stop construction on the site are ruled in its favor before breaking ground. By keeping the July 31 deadline, the legal burden will be placed on Wal-Mart instead of the city.

If the council chooses to grant Wal-Mart the extension, not only will they be going against the wishes of many Iowa Citians but the will also be ignoring the advice of City Manager Steve Atkins. Atkins sent a memo to the council last week, urging the councilors to deny the request because it would keep the property off the market, thus not allowing other potential interests in the site to be examined.

Another Wal-Mart is not needed in Iowa City, and denial of the extension request would help send the message to the retail giant that its presence isn’t wanted in Iowa City.

Laura Michaels
Opinions Editor

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Irrelevant rantings

Like all reasonable people, I find Ann Coulter repulsive in many ways – intellectually, viscerally, physically. Coulter, of course, is just a shrieking harpy incapable of reasonable debate, so it’s difficult to really blame her for her insane blathering. I do think that there are a lot of interesting contradictions in the garbage that spews out of her word-hole.

For example, Coulter castigated the 9/11 widows for being “self-obsessed” on an appearance on The Today Show. This is an ironic statement for someone who can’t put together two sentences without tossing her hair and re-crossing her miniskirted legs for the camera. (Coulter is sometimes promoted as a “sexy lady” Republican, which is somewhat confusing to anyone familiar with normal human females.)

She also railed against her favorite villain, The Left, for using the widows as mouthpieces that she’s not allowed to respond to.  But as Today Show host Matt Lauer pointed out, she is responding to them, and no one is stopping her.  If you’re getting schooled in a debate by Matt Lauer, you probably need to rethink your arguments.

In a typically hostile and defensive response to Lauer’s timid questioning about eroding support for the war in Iraq, Coulter insisted that the war in Iraq and the war on terror are one and the same. Again, I was surprised to hear that Coulter is opposed to terrorism — since she’s previously said she wished Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the New York Times building and suggested that someone poison Supreme Court Justice John Stevens.

In 2005 Coulter said she’s “not a big fan of the First Amendment.” I wonder, if she’s so opposed to free speech, why doesn’t she lead by example and shut the hell up?

Jayne Lady
Editorial Writer

Right approach to stem cell research

The decision by Harvard University to open embryonic stem cell lines from cloned eggs is commendable, especially in the face of staunch opposition from President Bush. 
The President, in his attempts to legislate morality to the liking of his far-right supporters, has continually treaded in opposition to the feelings of Congress, including Senate majority leader Bill Frist and his predecessor in office, who laid the groundwork at the end of his second term for the use of embryos discarded after in vitro fertility treatments to create stem cell lines for research. 
Because of this, an issue of direct importance to millions of Americans has become a political weapon for the administration, to be used to silence its necessarily immoral critics. Imagery of life and death, of sacrificing thousands of unborn children to create playthings for the Dr. Frankenstein’s in their ivory towers, have been artfully crafted to charge the issue and galvanize the tragically misinformed masses. 
But there is no question of life and death, at least for the stem cells. The frozen embryos needed to start lines of stem cells for research have no more potential for growth than the fertilized egg which is unable to implant itself on the thinned uterine wall in the womb of a woman on birth control.
Harvard University’s ethically-sensitive approach, with great care taken to educate potential egg donors, who will not be compensated, is a sensible way to push the frontiers of medical research. The creation of embryonic stem cells through cloning allows for experimentation on embryos with the same genetic makeup as a person with a specific disease. These techniques will be used to examine intractable disorders as varied as diabetes and Parkinson’s disease, illnesses that have caused suffering and stymied the medical community for far too long. As with any medical research, optimism must be tempered by the realization that progress in the lab is often slow and uncertain. Harvard University’s approach strikes this balance — all the while offering a glimmer of hope to the millions whose dreams of a cure had been dashed by the current administration.
Imron Bhatti
Editorial Writer

Thursday, June 8, 2006

E-surveillance restrictions a must

It’s been nearly six months since Americans first learned of the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping, sans a court order, on the email messages and telephone calls of some U.S. citizens. Despite the significant time lapse, action has yet to occur.
There is hope this could change. On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., prolonged his plan to question telephone companies about any cooperation with the NSA’s so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program. By putting off this questioning, Specter can turn the panel’s attention toward creating legislation aimed at dealing with the program’s source. The best chance of doing so lies in a bill proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calf.
Opposition to legislation exists however, as some think no law should be put into place until the Bush administration comes clean and explains exactly what the Terrorist Surveillance Program consists of and why its goals weren’t attainable under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The law, known as FISA, requires a special court to approve electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens while allowing investigators to engage in warrentless wiretapping only in an emergency. However, the chances of receiving an honest explanation are slim. Instead, Congress must now apply some safeguards to what has become a free for all exercise by the administration.
Feinstein’s bill provides the opportunity to do this. Though the bill would extend from 72 hours to seven days the emergency period before investigators would have to seek a warrant, it would also clarify that FISA is the “exclusive means” through which the government may conduct electronic surveillance of citizens in the U.S. The bill would also deny any funding for surveillance outside the restrictions of the law (like that of the Terrorist Surveillance Program).
Though not a complete fix, this bill is a step in the right direction, and makes clear to the public the Bush administration’s actions are not being entirely overlooked.

Laura Michaels
Opinions editor