Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Liberty Music?

So, one of the things being put together for Freedom Fair right now is a "Liberty Playlist" that will be playing for most of the two hours between 12-2pm that we can blast music. We will be blasting it. Some feedback would be great because we want to have all different kinds of music and we want it to mean something to you, the AU students who care about liberty. So far I've come up with a few things that really hit a chord for me. For example, the Qemists' "Renegade" I like a lot. But I know not everyone is into Dubstep. So, what makes you feel free? What do you want to hear blasted across the quad? Answer in the comments and let us know what songs you think best express our "freedoms to!"

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

AUSFL Response to AU Elections: Free and Fair?

On March 21, 2011 the South Asia Student Association (SASA) issued an apology to candidate for secretary Eric Reath. Earlier that week, SASA had made formal endorsements to candidates running for student government that the club had decided would serve the best interests of SASA. There was a complaint filed that SASA did not follow the proper course of action to endorse SG candidates and the Board of Elections decided to revoke SASA’s ability to be a part of this year’s elections.
What exactly did SASA do according to the Board of Elections? In order to endorse candidates for SG, there is a regulation that any club who wishes to voice their opinion on the school political process must take the responsibility of reaching out to every single candidate on the ballot. SASA President Ritanch Hans mistakenly missed a candidate in their email, and were therefore revoked of voicing a formal opinion in SG politics. As the SASA executive board pointed out in their apology: “when you have to copy and paste fifty emails you accidentally miss one, it happens.”

The Board of Elections procedure for endorsement is absolutely nonsensical. The very idea that a student club or organization does not have the right to freely express their opinion without oversight is blatantly unfair censorship. If a student club wishes to endorse a candidate, they should be able to do so without the burden of reaching out to every candidate. Compare this to endorsements in real elections where any group is able to endorse whomever they choose regardless of whether they reach out to other candidates. Why does an organization need to reach out to a candidate they know they will not support? This is a waste of everyone’s time. More importantly Board of Elections shouldn't have the power to say what is fair and unfair speech. The assumption is that this rule was created to make candidates feel better about themselves. However, it is the responsibility of the candidates to reach out to the student clubs and organizations to garner support, that’s what campaigning is.

But the infringements on free speech don’t stop there. You will remember that candidate Jessica Darmawan was sanctioned for sending out emails (remember that thing called campaigning that candidates are supposed to do?) without going through the Election Board’s regulated process. This is an even more blatant abuse of free speech. Pre-publication censorship (what this process amounts to) allows the Election Board to control who candidates reach out to and even what their campaign materials say. I ask you, how is this a fair process for candidates? The idea behind it is to give every candidate equal chances. But this is ridiculous, because it assumes candidates don’t have equal ability to draft up and email and send it to the organizations they’d like to be endorsed by. Personally I think anyone running for an SG position can handle drafting an email without the Board of Elections babysitting them. This sort of over- egulation not only dampens political participation, it makes a mockery of AU. If we want to claim fair and open elections, let’s have fair and open elections. It’s time for AU’s election regulations to change and in order for that to happen students need to speak out about the abuses of this system. If you’re interested in making this opinion heard, Elections Board meetings are Sundays at 12:30 in MGC 262 and open to the public. You can also contact them on the AUSG website.

-Co-authored by Marketeer. This was also submitted to the Eagle as an op-ed, so look out for it there!

The DC Two-Step

Now, I’m not one to get easily concerned and I generally think people can handle themselves and should be left to their own devices. However, there is an epidemic of truly rash behavior sweeping through Washington that last week nearly took the life of at least three of my friends. For an action that is seen by many as commonplace and of little concern, I think this an issue we should be paying a lot more attention to. But probably not for the reasons you’d think.

Jaywalking is one of those societal ills that just won’t go away. Like a stubborn case of the sniffles, it’s mildly annoying at worst but still awful because no matter how much Nyquil you chug you just can’t get rid of it. Legislators have tried lots of tricks to get rid of jaywalking: from fines, to pretty little crosswalk designs that they hope will entice you to stay in the lines. Here in DC we have an especially good collection of gimmicky walk signals created to catch your attention and keep you on the sidewalk. For instance, the Mass Ave walk signal that sounds like a fighter pilot relaying commands: Walk sign is on to cross, walk sign is on to cross. Roger, roger, Mass Ave walk signal, you’re coming in loud and clear. Or at least you would be if I wasn’t halfway across campus by the time you’re ridiculously loud speakers reached me. You see, like many of the things we would like to discourage, jaywalking is one of those things that will still continue to happen as long as you have streets. What bothers me most about jay-walking is not that everyone does it or even that it’s technically pretty dangerous. What bothers me most is that the people I see most doing it are those most involved in making laws against it. This is one thing I learned from working near Capitol Hill. I think it must be a matter of pride for legislators and their aides to see who can most boldly and nonchalantly place themselves in front of honking, speeding cars. I have actually been audibly scoffed at for waiting for a crosswalk signal. But there is more to the issue than the obvious problem of trying to legislate something so ubiquitous out of existence.

So what’s my problem? Of course I think they should be allowed to risk their lives like this since they obviously find it to be a very worthwhile sport. My problem is that the politically powerful tend to be insulated from the laws they pass to deal with problems like this. You will never see a legislator get a jaywalking ticket. I have, however, seen friends of mine get jay-walking tickets simply because the police in quiet suburbs tend to be very bored. A number of the laws our legislators make do not influence them directly. This is sometimes because they are literally seen differently in the eyes of our laws. For example, many workplace laws do not apply to congressmen’s offices and staff, allowing them to reap the benefits of cheaper labor that they deny to businesses on grounds of ethicality. Another big shocker for most people is the fact that congressmen don’t always have to abide by insider-trading laws that exist for the average citizen. And most think corruption on this scale is something that only happens in faraway countries with hard to pronounce names. ($5 if you can guess which country this flag represents without looking it up.Click for the answer.)

Other times it is because they are treated differently by law enforcement officials. Ex-Federal Marshall Matthew Fogg spoke at AU a while ago about the harmful effect the drug war has had on America. One of the major things that he stressed was the practice within law enforcement, especially in drug policy, of intentionally going after lower-level dealers and poor users who could not retaliate or sue. He recalled asking his superiors why they don’t go after the wealthy kingpins and politically powerful known drug users. But this makes things messy for law enforcement, and so the politically powerful get away with more. Legislators tend to live outside the realm of reality in a lot of ways and I think it goes without saying that when lawmakers are this far removed from the impacts of the laws they pass, we should really consider whether they are good judges of what policy works and how it affects the average citizen. So, while I support the congressman’s right to jaywalk (and take drugs, and play extremely dangerous sports, and eat twelve Big Macs a day if he so pleases) I just wish he would stop making it impossible for me to share in the sport he so adores.

-Reposted from my personal blog at