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Sta Passando Novembre

Una bella canzone di Eros...


SA & Corruption: Two Peas in a Pod

The University Standard was one of the first publications to break the SA scandal that has engulfed UWM as of late. Attached is the scathing article written by "The Rat that Knew the Ship was Sinking":

Democracy Now An Illusion At UWM

The noble idea behind student government is to allow students to be actively involved in the decisions that govern their experience at UWM. Law allows students to set and allocate the segregated fee portion of tuition. These fees in turn are meant to enrich UWM for all students on campus.

Your Student Association (student government) is based off of the U.S. system of democracy. Three branches that work for the common good of those they represent. Three branches of government that create a constant pattern of checks and balances. With such noble ideas and such a great basis for a governmental system, what are we lacking at UWM? What has happened to corrupt our system? Simply, personal greed has eroded the foundation on which our student government is based.

Our student government is no longer a powerful democracy. Instead, it has become a corrupt and oppressive dictatorship. A system not governed by its own laws and rules; rather, it is a system that bends and tailors its laws to gain power for a few “fat cats”. At its current state, our grand Student Association’s three-branch system has been demolished and only one true power remains.

Our judicial branch is no longer functioning after the resignation of Justice Michels. This renders the court inactive and leaves students without a way to bring complaints before the student government. The only choice for possible action is to present a case to Student Association President Samantha Prahl. What if your complaint is against her? What can be done then? The answer is nothing can be done. The only way to create a functioning court would be for the SA president to appoint a new justice. Chances are the current administration will continue to use the same tactic former President Rueden used. They will simply not appoint a new justice. This way, they can’t be challenged and control more power.

What about the legislative branch you ask? Aren’t they the back bone of any true democracy? Don’t they represent the students they were sworn to represent in these matters? Not in this system. The most disheartening consequence of this administration has been its butchery of the Senate – the heart and sole of democracy. Led by former President Rueden, the Senate meetings sound more like a soliloquy then a place of meaningful debate and discussion. No senator is needed to motion for, or second, a piece of legislation as called for in Robert’s Rules of Order – the rules the Senate supposedly follows. Instead, Rueden simply calls unanimous approval. So, where are the concerned senators elected to call out this kind of crap? They have been systematically dealt with.

In one cowardly move, President Samantha Prahl submitted a new set of executive bylaws to the Senate this summer. The bylaws were released to members of the Senate the day before the meeting and showed none of the usual underlines or strike-throughs that bylaw amendments usually feature. These marks allow the Senate to see all the changes that are proposed. Instead, President Prahl stood in front of the Senate and told them all the changes only to leave out the crucial change that would allow members of her executive branch to retain seats on the senate. This meant that the President’s paid employees would represent votes in the Senate.

This all happened under the watchful eye of current Senate Speaker Rueden. The irony is that it was Rueden himself that made the ruling to separate the branches when he was Chief Justice. His reasoning was that there was an implicit conflict of interests with having paid members serve in two branches of the government. What changed his mind? Could it be his longtime rumored relationship with President Prahl? Could it be that this brought them one step closer to absolute power? This is the guy who, The Post reported, is being investigated for allegedly embezzling $10,000 worth of student money.

So where does this leave the Senate? More than half of the current Senate is on the executive branch’s payroll. This means that more than half of a branch charged with checking and balancing the executive branch is currently employed by THE same executive branch. Is biting the hand that feeds you not a conflict of interest?

Without a functioning court and with a crippled Senate left bewildered by countless strategic moves, what is left of the proud system that governs us students? It leaves us with only an executive branch – a true dictatorship. Does that scare you? It should. As a student at UWM, you are charged more in segregated fees than you would be charged if you attended any other campus in the state. These fees are set by your student government – the Student Association. A government that is by far the highest paid student government in the state. Your President alone makes $9,500 a year. She also controls a budget of over $80,000 to be spent on executive employees. I will never argue that creating student jobs is not one of the greatest accomplishments the Student Association could achieve for students. Why, though, do all of these jobs have to be internalized solely in the executive branch? Isn’t the goal of the student government to spread the wealth?

It was the Three Musketeers that coined the phrase, “All for one, one for all!” It seems that somewhere along the line the current administration lost sight of the second half of that phrase. They are elected to serve all students, not just themselves.

Where does this leave the future of our student government? Due to internal power acquisitions, all consistent external sources of guidance have been eliminated. These are key resources that allow for smooth transitions when power changes hands. If and when a new power steps into office, they will be left with a Student Activities Office and an entire line of resource centers in shambles. Without the presence of SAO and without an SA advisor (who was eliminated by President Rueden last year) the elects will be lost and without any resources to maintain order. Our government is all but doomed when the current dictatorship is over.

How did it get to this point you may ask? It wasn’t a set of random occurrences. Trace this to its beginnings last spring when a botched election took place. The Independent Election Commissioner was paid more for two months of sub-par work than the highest paid members of the Senate. The Speaker got paid less for an entire year and countless hours of work than the IEC did. How did this happen you ask?

After being appointed by then President Rueden, she took over two-thirds of the pay that was set aside for poll workers and other election employees? All that was left was for someone to sign off on her time card. A time card that featured two separate pay rates set personally by the IEC. The latter of the two rates was at a rate in excess of twenty dollars an hour. Who would sign off on a time card like this, worth thousands of student dollars? Former President Rueden would of course.

I can’t say for sure what happened throughout the election process. I do know that there was a lot of information left behind closed doors. When you are paying a personal close friend an exorbitant amount of money for less then a month of work, red flags have to be raised. I mean, if the fact that the IEC knocked an entire party off the ticket for questionable reasons isn’t enough, what do we have? We have an entire election that was bought.

The mutiny of a student’s rights and money continues further yet. The one committee on campus that directly affects more students in a positive way than any other is SAC – the Senate Appropriations Committee. The sole purpose of this committee is to hand out money to the hundreds of student organizations on campus so they can positively add to the campus and community. This year was to be monumental. After a fiscally tight year last term, I was able to convince the Senate to give the committee more money than it had ever received in the past. This meant that the roughly three hundred student organizations on campus would be eligible to receive part of more than $600,000. The football team would get pads, Habitat for Humanity would get hammers, Alliance for Animals would bring in a nationally-recognized speaker, this paper would be printed and every fraternity and sorority on campus would have markers and paper to make signs to attract the next group of involved students.

Instead though, the committee was taken over by graduate students with different ideas for that money. They felt that SAC was wasteful and that adult students should get their own money. They said “SAC is not a father with an open wallet”. So they did things their way. They immediately changed the bylaws to send all unspent funds back to the Senate at the end of the year. So, money that last year’s Senate voted to be given directly back to the students was turned 360 degrees and is now headed directly back into the pockets of the fat, greedy pigs. Every penny this year’s committee refuses to spend will go back to the Senate. In past years, it would simply roll over to next year’s SAC committee so it could be given back to the students it was intended for.

This year’s committee allows a student organization $25 for printing and supplies. If you have ever filled out the paperwork to receive SAC funding you would know the printing costs of the forms for a year would cost well in excess of every penny they are giving for printing. The committee is also clueless on any laws concerning the allocation of segregated fees. All funding has to be given out in an extremely neutral manner. So, when the current chair of the committee tells a group presenting to the committee not to worry because he is a Democrat, you have to wonder. The committee acts in violation of more of its own bylaws, state laws and federal Laws than I can count. If anyone has the money for a lawyer and wants to make a case against these idiots let me know, I’ll give you the list. My case against them in the Student Court was dropped when the court became inactive.

I feel the tide coming in and I see the ship is starting to take on water. So, I am fleeing ship; I have resigned from my position as a Senator. I can’t make positive change for those I represent when the system is broken. What can be done, and what is the best course of action?

What can be done when a system is geared to eliminate external influences? You can’t knock on the door and ask for change. I think, more importantly, the question is what are you gaining from your current Student Association? What, if any negative effect would you feel without them? These are all questions being asked by powerful student organizations on campus, sickened by the current state of the administration. In the next few weeks, you will probably be approached by a petition asking for your signature to abolish the current student government. It is a move that has taken place twice in Madison with positive results. Weigh your thoughts, beliefs and obligations. Then ask yourself, is your money and government working for you and your school, or are you working to pay them? I won’t ask you to sign the petition but I may just ask to borrow your pen to make my opinion known.
(Republished from the University Standard, October 2006, Vol. 1 Issue 3)


Education and Ethics: Doyle's Worst Nightmare

The question was raised four years ago to then-Attorney General Jim Doyle as he hoped to win the race for governor: “What will you do to make tuition affordable for UW students?” He replied, “I’m going to make sure the university is affordable for every single student.” Asked if that included supporting a ten percent cap in the budget, Doyle quickly gave his support even adding that “frankly, ten percent seems a little high to me.” College students will go to the polls this November in hopes of electing a governor who will help our financial and educational situation.

It’s funny how things have changed since Doyle’s statements four years ago. What has happened since that commitment? Students in the UW system have seen their tuition increase not only ten or twenty percent but more than fifty percent according to a Journal Sentinel study! Doyle did keep his word to try and make our universities affordable to every student though – he tried to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants (note the word “illegal”). Furthermore, Doyle managed to decrease tuition for non-Wisconsin residents by $2000. I sense something wrong here. How is it that a governor who is supposed to be fighting for Wisconsin and its students is actually helping out everyone but native Wisconsinites?

This education issue is vital to the future of Wisconsin. At a time when the state is struggling to retain graduates, Doyle is making it harder for Wisconsin students to have affordable tuition costs. Do we simply allow Doyle to point the finger elsewhere as to the reasons for significant tuition increases? Obviously, Doyle and his campaign quickly blamed the UW Board of Regents for the increases. However, let’s remember who signs the budget that approves these increases, Governor Doyle. It isn’t the UW Board of Regents – it’s you! The point is that Doyle promised students four years ago that he would do everything he could to protect our rising tuition costs. Yet, all he’s done is just allowed it to balloon to over fifty percent as well as give access and aid to everyone but students from within the state.

If Doyle’s solution hasn’t worked, it’s only fair to look at what gubernatorial candidate Mark Green proposes to do. According to Green’s proposal, the solution is part of an overarching UW system reform. At its most basic form, the plan would include capping tuition at the rate of inflation. In addition, Green stated his intent to eliminate any proposed diversity tuition increases. Lastly, any increase that occurs with tuition would likewise increase financial aid for students. The question of whether or not it will work is yet to be seen. However, as it stands, Mark Green’s plan seems reasonable – especially after seeing Doyle’s promises go down the drain. So, if you can imagine Doyle’s backtrack on education, you have to be ready for his statements about ethics.

In his most recent debate, Doyle was asked, “What is your plan to strengthen the people's trust in Wisconsin government, assuring them the common good of all people will take precedence over special interests and party power?” Remarkably, Doyle threw out this gem on government ethics: “I hold myself to the highest standards of ethics and I expect everyone around me to do the same.”

Apparently, the highest standards of ethics are comparable to our very own Student Association’s code of ethics. In other words, Doyle’s administration has had about as much ethical behavior as a Clinton or Nixon administration. Chiefly (and most likely responsible for his election), was Doyle’s Kerry-esque flip-flop concerning the legislative oversight of gaming. Initially, Doyle was against such a measure; yet, after receiving almost $1 million in contributions from casinos, he approved the largest expansion of gaming in Wisconsin history. I wonder what could have changed his mind so convincingly.

But the casino issue wasn’t the only ethical problem hitting our Governor’s administration these past four years. Doyle also tried to influence the state’s Election Board. As a result, the Journal Sentinel was able to uncover the truth and even its somewhat liberal editorial board denounced Doyle’s attempts. Furthermore, Doyle’s problems with Travelgate, the sale of nuclear power plants and direct links to campaign donations are just a few of the many ethical issues that he has had to face and provide damage control. And we haven’t even touched the rest of his administration – remember our Attorney General getting caught driving a state vehicle while intoxicated? Way to represent our state and our people Mr. Doyle and Co. The attempt of Doyle and his campaign to attach ethical problems in the form of campaign contributions to the Green campaign is quite sad. It’s hard to point out the stick in someone else’s eye when you have a log in yours.

The state of Wisconsin has given Mr. Doyle four years to keep his promises; yet, we have seen nothing but lies and scandal. Students continually see rising tuition costs with no end in sight as long as Doyle is willing to approve them. Furthermore, an administration as ethically oblivious as this one doesn’t deserve another term in office. While there are numerous other issues that are at play in this election (namely taxes), the point is that the most important issues affecting students are at stake in this election. Do we want to continue to pay more and more for higher education while others are taking advantage of our increases? The choice is yours. Make a difference and make a change. Wisconsin depends on it and so does your checkbook.
(Written for the University Standard, October 2006, Vol. 1 Issue 4)


Comments, Comedy and Chavez

Comments, Comedy and Chavez
Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez really got it right yesterday during his speech before the UN General Assembly. I’m not talking about his repeated use of the “devil” to describe President Bush or about his thumping of resident idiot Noam Chomsky’s latest anti-American book. Rather, there are two things that Chavez stated correctly. Frankly, most clear-headed Americans have realized this for quite some time:

1. The United Nations in its current system does not work and is anti-democratic.
2. The United Nations needs to be moved out of the United States.

Those two points were dead on. While the UN was a good idea in theory, the truth of the matter is that this organization serves just about as much a purpose as a Cindy Sheehan book signing. It’s useless. Furthermore, a system that’s supposed to be democratic will not be democratic when less than 50 of the member states are actual democracies! Brilliant deduction, Hugo! It really is not hard to see the UN’s downfalls. They have been numerous, humorous and embarrassing.

The day has come for the UN to pack up and leave. Would any organization ever tolerate a building placed on its property that would continually be the center stage for dissent, disapproval and denouncement all the while being funded by the condemned organization? That notion is absolutely ludicrous! Yet, we continue to not only allow such a building on our land but also fund it with our own money. The United States annually takes on 22% of the UN’s budget which totals $423 million. That is way too much money to give to an organization that remains the haven for ineffectiveness and unabashed anti-American vitriol.

To allow the low-lifes of the world the ability to spread their hate message on our soil is unacceptable. The US should leave this defunct organization, withdraw funding and watch them cry foul.

Now, this brings me to the actual speech of Hugo Chavez. The Venezuelan leader is certainly no friend of the US, albeit he might be buddy-buddy with anti-American Cindy Sheehan. His behavior in front of the UN General Assembly was to be expected – this coming from a man who compared Israel’s recent attacks to the Holocaust. Not to mention, his good buddy denies the Holocaust even happened.

It was more of the same in regards to his speech. His speech was basically a repeat of the speech he gave before the UN in November of last year. Instead of coming across as an inspirational voice to a competent audience, Chavez was the court jester in the presence of buffoons. It was good to see him continue in his comedy routines – repeatedly calling Bush “El Diablo” and claiming the spot in which he was standing smelled like “sulfur”. And while the name-calling and jokes may have been entertaining, the rest of the speech contained no other useful information besides the two accurate points he made about the UN. The true class was shown when President Bush chose not to even comment on Chavez’s statements – they merit no response.

Furthermore, it’s truly difficult to try and listen to people like Chavez and Ahmadinejad rant on evil America when the hypocrisy is slapping them in face. Maybe if these countries were the bastions of freedom and democracy we could take them more seriously. Rather, the bashing of our country is a fa├žade for their respective self-interests. It’s okay, it’s easy to hate number one.

However, if there was one tell-tale sign that our time in the UN has come to an end, it would be how Hugo’s speech was received: the prolonged applause. Apparently, most of the UN General Assembly would be in agreement with Mr. Chavez. An alarming scene and definitely a justifiable reason to leave an organization as futile as the UN. When dictators and oppressors are praised, truly the UN’s claim to be the proclaimed international forum to engage in discussion and promote peace and freedom around the world is a joke.

(Written for the University Standard, September 2006 Vol. 1 Issue 2)

The Sicilian Specialists

It's a great day to be a fan of Palermo!

The Sicilian Specialists
Roberto Gotta

One of the things that has always amused me and the more iconoclastic among my colleagues before a big match in Italy is the customary press release by the home club, whichever it is, announcing the number of foreign countries that will watch the game live.

Tevez or no; Palermo out-thought and out-fought West Ham at Upton Park.
Some of the numbers in the past beggared belief, and one would have had to try hard to keep a straight face in learning the Sicilian derby and top of the table clash between Palermo and Catania on Wednesday night was going to be broadcast in 180 countries.
First of all, surely there must not be that many in the whole world, although at times I suspect the former Soviet Union itself broke up in no less than 150 different nations, most of them with a name ending in 'stan'.

Second, how do you keep count, really? And then, at least half of those nations dropping in to watch - and it's always a cute round number, 180 or 250 or 300, not 157 or 183 - would have had trouble locating Sicily and the two towns on a map, or know something beyond obvious cliches.

Speaking of which, not that some East End entrepreneurs bothered to check their facts and read their history books, last week, when they made the mother of all shortcuts in summing up what a name evokes for them by printing T-shirts with the words 'The Hammers v The Mafia' as Palermo visited Upton Park in the Uefa Cup.

I was there and was amused and disheartened by the bare-boned rudeness of those jerseys more than offended, but the visiting fans and writers were deeply offended by the juxtaposition, which brought a tense, typically rhetoric-filled response - even before a ball had been kicked - by the Governor of Sicily.

Not exactly what the good-taste doctor ordered, perhaps, as he's been under investigation for alleged links with - you've guessed it - the mafia.

The best reply, of course, was Palermo's on the Upton Park pitch, that night. It took a few minutes for them to find their feet, just as some of their correspondents in the pressbox had been overwhelmed by the magnificent intensity of the local fans' chanting at the beginning of the match. I always get a kick out of watching how first-timers in an English stadium react to a level of noise which is on a completely different planet to Italy's.

But once Palermo absorbed West Ham's furious start they were clearly the more poised side and deserved the win. So it may or may not have been exactly 180 countries being beamed the satellite signal of Palermo-Catania on Wednesday night, but those who did enjoyed one of the finest displays of attacking, worry-free football in recent times.

Palermo won 5-3, bringing the aggregate score of their first two home matches this season to 9-6 and more significantly lifting themselves to the top of the table in style, with eight different players having so far found the net for the Pink Ones' eleven goals.

Catania's Palermo-born striker Giorgio Corona, who plays with the lower part of the right leg of his shorts rolled in inside his underwear, put the visitors ahead with an identical goal to the one Hernan Crespo would score a few minutes later for Inter at Roma.

Taking the ball at the defence on the left side, he feinted inside then turned outside, embarrassing Christian Zaccardo (Philippe Mexes was the one left stranded by Crespo in Rome) then side-footed the ball home with his right foot through the feet of goalkeeper Federico Agliardi, a hero on Sunday at Lazio, but who would later gift Catania an equaliser at 2-2 by completely missing the ball while trying to chest it down while on his knees, a don't-try-this-at-home feat if ever there was one. He apparently believed a teammate had touched the ball last and did not want to handle it.

The derby game was marred by crowd trouble, all too predictable given the circumstances and the horribly customary Italian habit of knowing you will hardly get punished for your acts of violence, but as with the mafia thing, the bad deeds of few should not receive front page notice at the expense of the good deeds of most.

Among them the Palermo players, who shifted gears in the second half after allowing Catania, newly promoted and on four points now, to dictate play for much of the first period.
Palermo's tactical sophistication is superb. Midfield general Eugenio Corini, 35, is a natural leader. He ran back to comfort Agliardi after putting Palermo level within two minutes of the goalkeeper's blunder and then pulling the strings in a Pirlo-like role, flanked by goalscoring midfielder Fabio Simpicio and hard-running Giovanni Tedesco, another local lad who equalised Corona's goal, alongside the creativity of David Di Michele and the hard running of Mark Bresciano.

Francesco Guidolin, who returned to the scene of his latest triumph after an indifferent spell at Monaco, does not get much press because he never allows himself to indulge in the glad-handling that earns other managers a sympathetic ear from the media, but has always struck me as a hard-working fellow with little time for self-promotion if not of the tactical kind.
Fulfilling the predictions of many, he showed up for the post-match interviews wearing a pink shirt - not only Palermo's colours, but also the shirt donned by the leader of cycling's Tour of Italy, the least Guidolin, a renowned cycling enthusiast, could do.

It's early doors yet, but you can just sense Palermo are on a roll now, and could well be challenging for the Scudetto because of above-average talent, versatility, variety and a reasonably deep bench, although they will need to keep scoring a lot to offset the potentially awkward state of their defence, despite the presence of World-Cup winners in Cristian Zaccardo and Andrea Barzagli.

They also found an unlikely supporter in Alessandro Del Piero, who on being asked on live TV some time ago which side he rooted for now, replied, with an almost completely straight face, 'Palemmo', imitating a local's way of pronouncing their town's name.


Remember 9/11

It was the event that defined our generation. A half decade ago, most Americans woke up to just another day while most of us were getting ready for another day at high school. The morning papers were covering the latest news on the Chandra Levy case. Just how innocent was Gary Condit? If those names don’t ring a bell, you’re not at fault – the Chandra Levy case would very rapidly disappear from headlines all over the world. The world abruptly changed on September 11th, 2001.

What we saw that morning was unlike anything Americans had ever seen before. It hit close to home – much closer than the attack on Pearl Harbor did. We were caught off guard. As Americans, we had always felt a sort of invincibility towards the rest of the world. Yet, the terrorist attacks on American soil shattered that nonexistent cloak of invincibility and left us as a nation in utter shock and disbelief.

As a senior in high school, I could have never imagined that an event such as this would take place in my lifetime. After all, it was very easy to read about the defining moments of past generations and the struggles they faced while always thinking in the back of my mind that I was fortunate to live in the period of “Pax Americana”. Minor conflicts such as the First Gulf War or Desert Storm (as I remember it) were just that – minor ones. Yet, September 11th became the next chapter in our history books. What was previously the post-Cold War Era became the pre-9/11 and post-9/11 periods.

Now, the five-year anniversary is upon us. A lot of questions have been answered and even more still remain. How far have we come since that fateful day? More importantly, what do we remember about the events that took place? I’m sure many of us could pinpoint the exact time and location of where we were when we first heard the news. Yet, in the midst of all this, have we still forgotten?

While many would scoff at the idea of us already forgetting about 9/11, I caution you to stop and think about that for a second. I know that we recognize the date and even might take a moment of silence, but I believe that most of us have let the poignant images and actions of that day fade from our memories. Sure, we all remember the sight of the World Trade Center towers collapsing to the ground. Some of us even can vividly recall the plane that struck the Pentagon and of course the heroics that thwarted the final plane from reaching its destination by crashing in Pennsylvania.

But what has September 11th become other than a date frequently mentioned in passing? I remember thinking after the first anniversary had passed how long it would take before 9/11 loses the impact it had that first year.

Instead of a period of reflection, September 11th has become a sickening launching pad from politicians and people on both sides of the aisle. It is all too easy for one of these politicians (Democrats and Republicans alike) to try and use the date for their benefit. The media can also be blamed for its grouping of 9/11 with other present events. You can rarely read an article now about 9/11 that does not reference another conflict that is going on right now. September 11th was its own event – it should be mentioned that way.

Now there are films out covering 9/11. It was only a matter a time. After all, only a month or so afterwards, the entertainment industry was salivating over the idea of producing such a story and placing it on the big screen. Who would get the rights to the story and who would be the first to go ahead with its development? Obviously, one year was too quick to put something out. Yet, here we stand five years later and several movies have already covered the tragic events. I should clarify that I am not stating that any sort of movie or film depicting 9/11 is wrong. Rather, the motives behind the development of such a movie are questionable. One can claim that these are for the sake of those who gave their lives on that day – but is that the truth? Or does that person see a paycheck? After all, such a story would quickly bring in money.

The point is this: We should be remembering September 11th for what happened. The lives lost in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania should never be forgotten. What we saw was a nation whose qualities, values and character – which had always been talked about in the past (namely, the World Wars) – come to fruition on that day and the weeks and months following. America and the rest of the world saw our resolve and our strength in the midst of fear and uncertainty. We had done it in the past and we did it again. The unprecedented levels of unity in our nation were incredible and it is sad that it took a tragic event to bring us together. Yet, five years later, we are perhaps more divided than ever. This September 11th, take a step back and reflect on the day that defined our generation. Are we taking those lives that were lost for granted? Remember them – we owe them that much at the very least.
(Written for the University Standard Sept. 11th Issue)