Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Interview Update

I had my interview with Wizards and I would say it went very well. Unfortunately, it would be in poor taste to share all of my insights on the interview in this forum. Which is actually a really interesting aspects of blogs. On one hand, it enables people to publish truths that may not otherwise get published, however to do so without bringing wrath down upon yourself you must blog anonymously. But, if I go anonymous on my blog, I lose a great deal of credibility and also the personal aspect of the blogs. Obviously there is more to my identity than my name... there is only one GPSS Treasurer, so if I mention the position I end up giving away my identity. This in turn leaves the secret blogger with nothing to talk about other than company gossip, which rapidly becomes mudslinging for the purpose of mudslinging. Sort of a catch-22 if you ask me.

But I digress... interview went well, I should hear back in a couple of days.

Washington State Democrats are Being Stupid

This evening I received an e-mail from the Washington State Democrats detailing Day 6 of the Governor Election Challenge between Dino Rossi and Christine Greogoire. Obviously this is a very partisan trial and I would be setting myself up for a fall if I expected good behavior from either actor. However, this e-mail goes a little too far.

Our Secretary of State is a Republican named Sam Reed, and I vote for him without hesitation. He is a top notch guy, square and true. I had dinner with him at an HRC Event a few years back... and while he wasn't the greatest conversationalist, he was nice and polite. I agree with almost all of his policy stances, what few stances the Secretary of State is supposed to take, and many of his personal stances. Even my limited experience with his office as it relates to filing business records has been positive. Prior to the election contest I have never once heard Sam described as a partisan... in fact, I'm told that the Republican party establishment doesn't like him because he's too moderate! Heaven forbid!

This is why I get upset with the Democrats send out an e-mail detailing the position of the Secretary of State in the case. Sam's job is to defend the election (since he is in charge of the thing) which means defending Christine Greogoire as the sitting governor. His position in the trial has been just that: the election went fine with standard and acceptable error in any large-scale human endeavor. And yet, the e-mail from the Democrats mention that his a Republican three separate times! Its strikes me as if they want me to believe that Sam is actually a bad guy, and yet look... He's still on our side.

Its stupid, political, and short sighted. The best it does is rile up the rank & file to help pay for the ongoing lawsuit. At worst it undermines the credibility of the Office of the Secretary of State and only furthers my belief that we should get rid of partisan elections (more on that another time). Sam's a good guy, and anyone who doesn't realize that is either running against him or too shortsighted to realize that he is an excellent Secretary of State and we are lucky to have him.

Interview Today

Today I write the final chapter in figuring out what I'm doing this summer. So far I have confirmed my job as a Research Assistant for Prof. Nicholas, GPSS Treasurer, and LegSim Developer. At 2pm today I will be interviewing for a fourth and final position as an intern for in-house counsel to Wizards of the Coast. The job is really a perfect fit, except its in Renton! Transportation could be a problem. I have an hour and a half bus ride ahead of me... not to mention the return trip :(

Monday, May 30, 2005

State of Cooking Shows

Today, while watching Bobby Flay's Boy Meets Grill, I remarked to Brett that something strange is afoot with modern cooking shows. During the 30 minutes expose on grilled sandwiches (Cheese Philly, Turkey BLT, and Grilled Tuna Salad), Bobby uttered not one word about time, quantity, or preparation. We learned about the importance of proper bacon thickness and why grilled tuna must be rejuvenated with a flavorful dressing, but not a moment was spared to discuss the information relevant to the actual making of these delectable treats.

Later in the show, Brett posited the purpose of these new cooking shows. The more traditional explanation, that we are learning how to cook, fails to withstand the simple truth explained above. Our final determination revealed that today's cooking show are really nothing more than food pornography. You watch the show to remind yourself how much you love food. Sometimes this inspires you to run to your kitchen and make wild, passionate cuisine. Every now and then you cheat on your faithful companion and pay for someone else to cook for you. More often than not, you get your fix with junk food while watching yet another glorified cooking centerfold.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Spring Gala 2005

I had a great time this year at the annual Law School Spring Gala. The event is put on by the SBA, so I got a more behind the scenes perspective. Unfortunately I went stag due to some planning issues between Lindsay and I... but there were plenty of nice people (couples and fellow singles) to talk to. Here's a great picture of me and the outgoing SBA President and Treasurer (note my new goatee).

Friday, May 27, 2005

Reports of My Dumping are Greatly Exaggerated

The mindful reader may have noticed that Sunday of last week I posted a story about seeing Star Wars Episode III. Detailed readers may have further noticed that in the last paragraph I mentioned that Lindsay and I broke up.

Well, forget about that... because its all a lie propagated by my enemies. The truth is I had to make up that story to protect my family from Nicaraguan insurgents who threaten to destroy our national economy and replace it with an economy based on mashed soybeans. Thankfully that threat has passed and the lie can be exposed.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Return of the Senate

Last night the ASUW Senate went through the annual exercise of electing next year's leaders. The process is painful and slow, although not nearly as painful as running for the ASUW Board of Directors. I would suggest, however, that the the ASUW Senate has a much more informed electorate and often makes decisions that are much more far looking than the average voter in the ASUW election. The result is Senate leaders are often a head above the Board leadership in terms of capabilities and generally "getting it." But that doesn't stop the Daily from reporting that the Senate Leadership is only elected by the Senators while the BOD is elected by the campus body. Its unfortunate that the press often fails to understand the subtleties of government formation. I'm waiting for the day for the press to renounce the leadership of the U.S. Senate or House Leadership because they aren't elected by the nation as a whole. That's the whole point of representative government... we elect leaders who then make these sorts of decisions with better information and more time for deliberation.

Anyway, the leaders who were elected were, in fact, a head above the rest. Alex Kim as Chair, Erin Shields as Vice Chair, Travis Grandy as Membership Coordinator, and Travis McCoy as Secretary. The bottom two seem good, but I don't really know them. But the top two are quite fantastic. Alex is easily one of my most favorite ASUW people these days, has great respect for the Senate and actually listens to his elders (a big change from current leadership). Erin is also top-notch. She was Sam Castic's Senate Buddy back in the day of the Senate Buddy program, has been an active participant, and has all sorts of passion. On top of all that, she adds some gender diversity in the Officer corp after a year with all males.

I'm really looking forward to working with them next year in my capacity as GPSS.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Text of the Agreement

Things on the internet have a funny way of being locked up behind a password, altered by revisionary historians, or just plain lost. In the spirit of remember this faithful day in Senate history, I'm keeping a clean copy of the agreement as reprinted by the New York Times on May 23, 2005.

We respect the diligent, conscientious efforts, to date, rendered to the Senate by majority leader Frist and Democratic leader Reid. This memorandum confirms an understanding among the signatories, based upon mutual trust and confidence, related to pending and future judicial nominations in the 109th Congress.

This memorandum is in two parts. Part I relates to the currently pending judicial nominees; Part II relates to the subsequent individual nominations to be made by the president and to be acted upon by the Senate's Judiciary Committee.
We have agreed to the following:

Part I: Commitments on Pending Judicial Nominations

A. Votes for Certain Nominees. We will vote to invoke cloture on the following judicial nominees: Janice Rogers Brown (District of Columbia Circuit), William Pryor (11th Circuit) and Priscilla Owen (Fifth Circuit).

B. Status of Other Nominees. Signatories make no commitment to vote for or against cloture on the following judicial nominees: William Myers (Ninth Circuit) and Henry Saad (Sixth Circuit).

Part II: Commitments for Future Nominations:

A. Future Nominations. Signatories will exercise their responsibilities under the advice and consent clause of the United States Constitution in good faith. Nominees should only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances, and each signatory must use his or her own discretion and judgment in determining whether such circumstances exist.

B. Rules Changes. In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules changes in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment to or interpretation of the rules of the Senate that would force a vote on judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or Rule XXII.

We believe that, under Article II, Section 2, of the United States Constitution, the word "advice" speaks to consultation between the Senate and the president with regard to the use of the president's power to make nominations. We encourage the executive branch of government to consult with members of the Senate, both Democratic and Republican, prior to submitting a judicial nomination to the Senate for consideration.

Such a return to the early practices of our government may well serve to reduce the rancor that unfortunately accompanies the advice and consent process in the Senate.
We firmly believe this agreement is consistent with the traditions of the United States Senate that we as senators seek to uphold.

Is the Senate Compromise a Good Thing?

I've been following the developments in the Senate with great interest. On the whole I truly believe the debate going on is about the future of the Republic. There is a great speech by Al Gore going around detailing some of the critical aspects of the debate. (Here's a stupid Salon.com link that makes you watch ads.) But Mr. Gore doesn't know what we know now... that the Senate will avoid the big decision as to whether the filibuster survives of its own according. We owe this development to twelve centrist Senators known as the "Gang of 12" and their last minute compromise.

The compromise is a fairly simple concept. When the cloture vote comes to the floor on three of the nominees, 6 Democrats will vote to end debate giving the Republicans the necessary 60 votes to overcome the filibuster. The three nominees are the more famous, compelling individuals who have gotten a lot of the recent press. Lord only knows the stories of the other seven nominees...

In return for allowing three nominees past the gate, 6 Republicans will vote against a ruling by the chair should the chair ever rule the judicial filibuster unconstitutional, provided that the filibuster is only used in "extraordinary circumstances." And thus disaster is averted forever.

But in reality, the solution is a stopgap at best... and a Republican victory at worst. First, what of the remaining 7 nominees? Does the agreement tacitly accept that those nominees are extraordinary enough to warrent filibustering? Or perhaps it means that Frist won't bring them up for a vote for another three months. And then when the timing is right, declare another judicial crisis requiring the hasty appointment of judges and the end to the judicial filibuster. What then? Will these 6 Republicans stick by their compromise, or will it require a new compromise letting another set of nominees through the gate?

I suggest, as Al Gore does in his speech (did you read it? Here's the link again... its good), that the point of the filibuster is to encourage deliberation and compromise. But that compromise takes time, and movement by both the majority and minority party. Under the current context, that period of time is shortcircuited because the Senate leadership still has the Nuclear Option at its disposal. If the Democrats raise an objection to a future nominee, the majority need merely declare a crisis and threaten to end the filibuster, initiating another round of hasty negotiations that cheapen the kind of deliberation the filibuster is supposed to engender.

Then again, this compromise may be the turning moment in American partisanship. The next move is really in the hands of the President and the Majority Leader.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Star Wars and the Near Future

I saw the final installment of the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. I thought it was really good! Political, funny, visually amazing, compelling story, it was all there. They made some curious decisions about the storyline that make the whole series somewhat problematic. For example, if I were to show the entire series to someone who had never seen Star Wars I don't think I would show it to them chronologically. Part of what makes Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back so great is the surprise reveal of the relationship between Luke and Vadar. Its also very interesting to piece the relationship between Vadar and Obi Wan. If you watch Episode I through III first, all of that intrigue and surprise is lost.

Some have suggested the order IV, V, I, II, III, ending with VI. This seems to be a pretty compelling way to do things. IV and V setup the mystery and the environment, getting you to understand the relationships and history leading up to the final clash. Then you flip to I, II, and III to see how we got to the situation and explains the fall of Vadar and why he is a tragic figure and not just a bad guy. Then you end with VI, which I suggest will be a totally different experience then before. Where the Luke v. Vadar fight is usually seen as a fight between good and evil, I think with the context of Episode III the fight becomes far more complex. Now its a fight over balance and respect, not just good conquering evil.

As a totally geeky point, the story with Padme and her death poses interesting problems for some of the books released in the time period after the Battle of Endor. There is a whole three book series on Luke's search for his mother, which reveals many interesting facts. As I recall, the death of Padme is not going to be inconsistent. But, I'm pretty sure it was revealed that Luke's mother had force powers and was part of a traveling group of force-wielding women (though not Jedi). Padme clearly had no force powers... so I'm not sure how the two stories fit together.

In other news, Lindsay broke up with me after the movie. It sucks... but I'm trying my best to respect her decision.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

DHS as a Model for the new Federal Government

During my brief 10 week term as an intern in the House of Representatives I saw many interesting things. A law was passed that made any accidental death resulting from a computer hack punishable by life imprisonment (even though vehicular manslaughter is only 20 years), the fourth House member since the civil war was expelled from the chamber, and the Homeland Security Department was formed. Some may remember that the biggest worry of Congress was turf war issues. Many congressional committees were having their jurisdiction shrunk at the expense of the new department.

The Senate Democrats raised a bit of a fuss over personnel issues, claiming that the President's proposed merit system was hurting unions. Unfortunately their arguments rang hollow. It was my opinion then, as it is today, that Democrats have shifted so far from the enlightened progressives of the New Deal they simply cannot reliable make the real argument for civil service protection. The issue is not one of unions or workers rights, but patronage. When the system allows political appointees to make decisions about who "is" and "is not" doing a good job, then the system is asking for corruption. Oh sure, Congress could monitor all hiring, firing, and promotion activities... but something tells me those issues are quite sexy enough to warrant a committee hearing. Instead, the behavior slips under the radar and now one is the wiser.

Well, it turns out there is an even greater fear with DHS than I had originally thought. The Washington Post reports massive procurement mismanagement and poor accountability ever since DHS, and its most infamous agency the Transportation Security Agency, were formed. The article details a series of damning reports issued by the Department's Inspector General (an interesting job, by the way, and one I think would be neat to hold). Things like one division who spent more than a third of its budget under the line item "other."

The only official response so from DHS so far has been to blame the decisions on congressional deadlines. Apparently Congress put a pretty impossible deadline on securing the airports after September 11th. The claim, as I understand it, is that now we have secured the the homeland so future decisions can be made with more deliberation. But is that really accurate? It strikes me that if there is some kind of security measure not in place right now, then the urgency to get it installed can't be any less than it was after 9/11. Its not like the airports were unsecured prior to the terrorist attacks... we had policies and procedures in place. The problem was the preception that those were simply not good enough. How is it that this situation isn't going to rise again, resulting in billions of misspent taxpayer money?

Ultimately I fear DHS is going to be like the DoD. When the mission is viewed as so critical, so important to get right, that any expense is justified, then you can pretty much kiss any kind of real oversight out the window. Couple spending mismanagement with the patronage problems and you begin to understand why the Republican rhetoric on smaller government is so hollow. Its not that they want a smaller Federal Government, its that they want the government subsidies previously given to Democrate interest groups to be funneled to Republican interest groups.

My concern goes one step further, because I don't hold the Democratic party to be any less prone to government mismanagement then the Republicans. My concern is how do you even being to structure a government such that these sorts of abuses don't take place? Arguably the civil service protections were the first step in that process, but apparently those can't withstand the threat of international terrorism. So what possible chance does a robust oversight mechanism have?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Being Sort of Done

Today marks the last day of my Copyrights class. Instruction ended Tuesday, review class on Wednesday, take home final Thursday, turned it in today. Its part of a new compressed schedule they are testing out to let students get out of school quicker and start jobs that expect students to be available mid May. In many ways I was disappointed that Copyrights was offered as a compressed course. It seemed to sort of cheapen the class. Stupidly Copyrights is only a three credit course (although the implications of Copyrights could take twice as much course time to adequately teach). Combine the three credit nature with the shorted course term and it just seemed like the subject was give the short end of the stick.

I'm thinking I will post one of my answers after the finals are all turned in (you had 24 hours to take it, but could start as late as Friday 4:30). While I highly doubt anyone from my class would read my blog within the next 16 hours, posting the answer or any hints as to the nature of the questions strikes me as the sort of thing they expell you for. Suffice to say, it posed some unique questions that were fun to grapple with.

Now that the Copyrights class is over I must turn my focus to the remaining courses. Drafting Tech Contracts may turn out to be the real sleeper for the quarter. At first I thought it was really easy... but suddenly it got hard and I didn't really catch up. I'm worried I won't be quite prepared for the final or the writing assignment. But what really keeps me up at night are the two, yet-to-be completed assignments for my Tech Clinic and the paper for my Legal Protection of Software class. The Tech Clinic papers should really have been done months and months ago, but the nature of the course has made it almost too easy to push it off to the last minute. I essentially have two weeks to get it all finished.

The Legal Protection paper is a more interesting situation. It is supposed to be 20 pages in order to complete the requirements for the course, which is really nothing spectacular. But I've been planning to use it to fulfill my Advanced Writing Requirement, which requires a bit more effort than 20 pages. Combining that writing with the Tech Clinic writing may be a bit too much. So now I've got to figure out how to balance all of the commitments against one another.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

GPSS Spring Social

GPSS is not really known for its programing; choosing to focus energy on representation and lobbying, but twice a year GPSS takes off the gloves and throws a big Social for students to come and relax. I have never attended one before, mostly because I don't "mingle" all that well and wouldn't really know what to do while I was there. This time I had the important task of distributing the alcohol... critical, I know.

Next year as GPSS Treasurer planning the socials falls to me, which meant I actually had two duties at the social: distribute alcohol and figure out what could be done better next time. Here's my list of things that I would do different based on my initial impression:
  • Get at least one vegetarian dish that is more complex than a simply veggie platter. Graduate students are picky eaters.
  • Purchase different kinds of beer with clear labels describing what they are. we still don't know if Blue Boar is an ale or a stout.
  • Prechill all of the beer. This can probably be done two ways: find space in a refrigerator somewhere and get the beer cold overnight, or go with the bucket plan used this time but started hours earlier.
  • Book the adjacent ballroom early but leave it empty so live music can be played during the event.
  • Work with student groups beyond the Senators to build "word of mouth" around the event to encourage participation.
  • Don't try to make the event a social/networking event because people don't want to drink and network. It was a neat idea, and may have brought in some more money, but I don't believe it enhanced the evening in any noticeable way.
  • Make sure the bartenders are trained and empowered to deny alcohol to people who are getting well passed drunk. Probably two people at each station would be a plus.
  • Make sure to call the grocery store ahead of time if using a non GPSS budget account. The Safeway was not interested in granting us any special favors without prior notice.
  • Purchase all the pop, beer, and wine ahead of time (see chilling idea above) and save the final day to purchase ice and nothing but ice. If we go the ice bucket route for chiling, we probably need 50 bags.
  • Make sure to have water available to put into the ice buckets to encourage melting, that way you can dump the beer bottles in quicker, pull they out easier, and they get colder faster.

I think that if we can do those few things we'll be in good shape for next year.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Daily Covers Act of Evil

At last week's Final Budget Deliberations for the S&A Fee Committee we decided to cut the funding to UWCARES. Its a good program, with good intentions, but it no longer serves the needs of the student body. At one time it supported five teams of two each night provided thousands of walks each year. Now it has two teams, and only serves 600 students. The reduction is not due to lack of funding, but lack of interest. Combined with the increase in campus lighting, better planning among studnets so they walk with a friend, campus blue phones, and cell phones and you begin to see why student demand plummeted. Personally, I think it shows great progress. Since UWCARES inception students have continued the push for a safer campus, demanding the capital investments necessary to ensure a secure environment. One of the benefits of that success is reduced need for bandaid programs like UWCARES.

Unfortunately, it falls to someone to make that final, fateful decision to terminate the program... and perhaps just as importantly, someone must write a flashy headline about the decision to terminate the program. Those who have read it all agree the article itself is very fair and balanced. I guess the only upsetting thing is the Friday article about SAF's decision to cut the fee by three dollars was given a tiny blurb and an even tinier headline, but I guess good news just doesn't move papers like controversial news.

Reading the 21st Amendment Out of the Constitution

Section 2 of the 21st Amendment is entirely comprised of the following cryptic phrase: "The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited."

Facial reading of this monstrosity says the Constitution grants authority to states, territories or possession of the United States (like a district or military base) to write laws regulating the transportation or importation of intoxicating liquor. The first part of the 21st Amendment repealed prohibition, while this second part empowers states to continue the noble experiment, should it so desire.

Some of the States have chosen to exercise this power by refusing to allow the importation of liquor from out of state which is sold directly to consumers. Which means I am prohibited from purchasing wine straight from a California winery. However, Washington State law does allow me to make a similar direct purchase from an in-state winery. Although cloaked as a health and safety rule (protection of minors from alcohol) it is in effect a protectionist scheme that favors in state wineries over out of state wineries.

Which brings us to today's Supreme Court decision Granholm v. Heald. See, the Court has long since read the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to contain something known as the "Dormant Commerce Clause" which says (without actually saying anything) that state's many not discriminate against one another. Consider how nations have tarriffs on goods that cross their boarders... the DCC makes such barriers between the States unconstitutional. Let's all be clear, regardless of whether you think this is good policy or not: the DCC is a judicially created free trade policy that is not textually based. One could certainly imagine the United States where the individual states have more commercial autonomy and can favor internal manufacture over outside manufacture... and there is nothing textual in the Constitution that prohibits the behavior. But, for better or worse, the Supreme Court (conservative AND liberal) embrace the DCC as if it were the First Amendment.

The question for the Court is whether the 21st Amendment abrogates the DCC such that States may discriminate against outside wineries. Five justices, in a coalition that cross all sorts of ideological lines, said the 21st Amendment does NOT abrogate the DCC, and the remaining four disagree. I happen to agree with the dissent on this issue.

Let's assume for a moment that the drafters of the 21st Amendment wanted to grant to the states every possible authority over the sale of liquor within their boarders. How would such a clause read differently from the present 21st? I suggest it would be identical because that was the intent of the authors of the 21st Amendment. Yes, federal prohibition had failed and the nation was ready to end it... but the temperance movement was still strong in many places and would have wanted to provide the necessary tools to state to regulate alcohol as they saw fit.

What the majority has done is read Section 2 right out of the Constitution. States don't require any additional authority beyond their standard police powers to end all direct to consumer liquor sales, and health standards have long been the provice of state government. The drafters of the 21st Amendment could have left Section 2 out altogether and we would be exactly where we are today. No, I think the court made a mistake here by failing to find meaning in the Constitution, ignoring history, and continue to push the judicial policy choice of the DCC.

Quote of the Day

"Some writers put semicolons and wild mushrooms in the same category: some are nice, and some are not, and since it is hard to tell the difference, they should all be avoided."

Richard C. Wydick, Plain English for Lawyers

Thursday, May 12, 2005

85% of Opensource is for Profit

Lots of stuff to report on this week, and maybe if I'm lucky I'll find a moment to discuss the issues, but I absolutely have to commit a few things to my digital memory before it slips the surly bonds of Earth.

This week in my Legal Protection of Software class we had the distinct honor of hearing from Nick Tisilas, an attorney in the Microsoft Standards group. To be clear, these are the guys who validate the "embrace and extend" mentality of Microsoft and do their darnedest to defend Microsoft's behavior as relates to standards. On a whole, Nick is a nice guy... although not nearly as academically honest as Andrew, the previous MS attorney on patents. Nick's presentation reeked of the political jargon MS uses to push its deregulatory government agenda. Stuff like "software choice", "governments as consumer, not arbiter", and "IP Bleed". It was interesting, and enjoyable to catch him on some of the dishonesty inherent in the argument.

Perhaps most shocking, in retrospect, is how he described open source software developers. You can break them down into three groups: The Good Guys, the Profit Guys, and the Freeloaders. The Good Guys, roughly 5-15%, are those who program for altruistic reasons, believe code should be free and are doing this for the goodness of the world. Interestingly he lumps Torvalds in this group, even though Linus has long renounced the crazy antics of Free Software zealots. The Profit Guys, about 70%, represent all of the people dedicated to opensource software but are trying to figure out how to make money off their efforts. I think this group includes companies like MySQL and IP indemnity insurance. The last group, apparently as much as 25%, are big corporations like Novell, IBM, and Sun. These corporations don't actually contribute at all, they just sell services on top of Linux and avoid contributing code because of legal concerns. From what I can gather, these folks are the real problem with opensource, earning billions in sales without contributing back.

I pointed out that the opensource community would welcome Microsoft into that final category anytime it wants to join the party. If Microsoft had an interest in the continuation of opensource software, like IBM and Novell do, we would all breath a little easier at night. But all that aside, what I took away from the discussion is Microsoft's belief that only 5-15% of us are in it for reasons other than money. Perhaps a total lack of understanding about opensource philosophy and mentality will be our greatest strength in fighting the beast.

GPSS Elections

The Graduate & Professional Student Senate has four officer positions. Since most G/P Students are busy with actually learning something (as opposed to our undergraduate counterpart) the GPSS cannot follow ASUW's low paid employee/volunteer model. In order to operate a government of any sophistication, GPSS employees six staffers and four officers. The six staffers are hired at the start of each academic year while the officers are elected by the Senate at the end of each academic year.

The Senate elected next year's officer corp last night with a greater level of brouhaha then normal. Standing unopposed were Adam Grupp for President (the current President running for reelection), Nick Payton for Vice President (the heir-apparent from the current VP), and myself for Treasurer. Each of us gave speeches of varying inspiration and were dutifully elected to our post. However, the Secretary had three candidates going into the meeting with a fourth suprise candidate nominated from the floor.

The first candidate, Jeff Stevens, is the current Secretary and has been around student government for longer than I have. His candidacy is plagued by the fact that he is graduating this year. You might think that would be a disqualifying attribute... but not in the GPSS! Since Jeff will continue taking courses in hopes that he will earn credit towards a future PhD program in which he is yet to be accepted, the GPSS Judicial Committee decided his candidacy was not barred by the rules. Makes the GPSS a pretty sweat deal, free tuition so long as you keep a majority of the Senate happy with your performance. Maybe I should switch over to graduate school and set out a nice leasurly 10 year plan!

The next candidate, Jimmy Allen, is a perpetual thorn in my side. I will admit, for purposes of full disclosure, that I see a lot of myself in Jimmy... which is why I assisted Jimmy in formulating his judicial complaint against Jeff's candidacy. The problem with Jimmy is he lacks the proper appreciation for reality. He believes strongly in the old boys network, while simultaneously making general appeals for fundamental fairness. He has the highest regard for Resolutions, whether from GPSS or the Faculty Senate, but cloaks himself in the respect of the institution instead of earning respect for himself. And as a final point... he has really, really bad e-mail etiquette.

The third and final announced candidate was Yutaka Jono. He's a nice enough guy from FIUTS and would make a decent Secretary. He's served with GPSS for a few years now and is generally likeable, but doesn't really stand out in any particular fashion.

And the surprise candidate, the real shocker of the day, was my own Law School Senator companion Katherine Van Maren. I could write several pages about this girl, because she continues to fascinate me. Suffice to say, her candidacy was surprising because her involvement with GPSS has been somewhat lax. She was actually planning on missing the election meeting due to a conflicting class. But she did end attending, and running... and wouldn't you know it... she even won.

All in all, I think the new Officer Corp is a great group. There exist a few personality wrinkles to work out, but nothing debilitating. Once people get to know eachother and identify strengths and weaknesses, I think it will be a great year. On the down side, my first action as GPSS Treasurer next year will be asking for an increase allocation to tuition waivers because we only budgeted for 2 law students... not three!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

My Fundamental Disapointment

This Friday I said a rather muted goodbye to a long standing love-affair with the ASUW Student Senate. I came to the Senate for the first time three years ago as a Senator for Haggett Hall Peoples' Council, the student government for my residence hall. From that position my involvement with the ASUW spread into every imaginable facet. The following year I became the Chair of the Senate and initiated a long and painful reform process that culminated in a Constitutional Amendment approved by the voters two years later. But more important than the Constitutional Amendent was a building of a Senate culture, one that valued its position in the ASUW, demanded respect from other ASUW entities, and wasn't afraid to voice its opinion over those claiming an electoral mandate (aka the Board of Directors). As of this Friday the Constitutional Amendment still stands, but I regret to say the culture is dead.

There are two possible explanations for the change. One, the amendment altered the membership of Senate such that power is more diffuse and includes more groups with a moderate position on student government. I have troubles believing this theory only because the composition of the Senate is really not that different, just bigger. Sure, there are more Res Hall, Greek, and Commuter Senators than ever before, but in my experience those seats are filled by the most radical Senators, even though the groups they represent are moderate.

No, I believe the plausible explanation is one of leadership. Knowing how blogs have a way of getting around, let me clarify that I don't believe this is a case of bad leadership, just different leadership. Starting with my term and ending with the subsequent Chair, Cammie Croft, the Senate received regular updates from the Chair that were designed to indoctrinate. Sounds sorted, I know. But the point was to infuse into Senate a sense of purpose, a reason for their long meetings and attention to process. I my mind, it more than paid off. When Senators were asked to refer an important issue of student policy to the general assembly ballot, the Senate rejected 2 to 1 the idea that the Student Senate was not the place to make these sorts of determinations. When the Board of Directors vetoed resolutions and rewrote bills, the Senate was outraged and made that outrage clear. Senate liaisons felt empowered on their committees, knowing that if they were treated poorly the Senate would come to their aid. Board members feared the Senate and knew that they were being watched.

This year, the Senate is adrift. The current leadership has been unwilling to stand against the Board of Directors on any important issue. When it does fight it goes to Judicial instead of relying on real political strength. The one time it tried to use its new Request for Information power, the Senators were unprepared with questions and quickly ended debate, far before the Board member admitted his wrong-doing. Procedure seems to be followed, but I get the sense that they have no understanding as to why the procedure is important. But the last straw, for me, is how the leadership chose to handle my resolution.

I mentioned the resolution in yesterday's giant catch-all posting. On Friday the Senate Steering committee referred the resolution to a Standing Committee, over my express wishes. Now, this issue is their decision... but what strikes me as amazing is why Steering made the decision. Committee waiver is not often granted, and generally only for time-sensitive resolutions. My resolution related to elections, which conclude this Wednesday, and is about as time-sensitive as they come. But the Senate Leadership felt the resolution was so inappropriate that it didn't deserve the privilege. Arguably I was asking the Senate Leadership to trust me on this issue, something they appear unwilling to do at this time. Underneath that, however, is a new fear from the Senate Leadership of encouraging Senatorial dissent in the ASUW. This sends the message that the Senate is not the place to lobby for change. I was even told by the Senate Chair that I would be better of directly lobbying the new incoming BOD, a comment that remains a complete shocker! To think the Senate Chair portraying the Senate as too weak to make a real impact on the issue.

This leads me to my final decision. I have cut ties with Senate before, mostly for reasons dealing with these same underlying issues. But this time I think its best I cut the last cords and move on. Returning only brings headaches and a longing for better times, and worse yet, yelling and screaming at people who I generally like as friends. Maybe next year's leadership will return to the previous style and reclaim the Senate's earlier prominence in the ASUW... I might be able to associate with that group in the future, but until then, I think its best for both parties that I just stay away.

Farwell Student Senate, and thanks for all the memories.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Too Many Things at Once

One of the perennial problems of blogging is getting behind. A few events happen that are worthy of public comment, but for one reason or another you fail to write it down... and then a few more events come by your way, only this time you don't post because you're still looking for some time to write about the earlier events. And then it builds and builds until you either sit down and reconstruct the now several day delayed stories or just cut your loses and pretend as if that period of time never happened. I'm going to strike a middle ground and detail a few of the highlights.

SBA Elections

A few weeks back the Student Bar Association held its yearly elections. As with any small student group, the races are decided well before the voters have anything to say about the issue. By the time the polls had opened, of 18 races, only ONE was contested. Its the natural consequences of having to know and see your opponent. No body wants to lose to a friend (or win over a friend) so for the few weeks prior to the election everyone dances around until all the races are decided. This year one individual didn't want to play by the rules, so we had a contested presidential election... but the outcome went as predicted. As for me, I won a second term as GPSS Senator.

ASUW Elections

In other less mature, yet more sophisticated, elections news, the ASUW has started its yearly circus. Because this is a campus wide election, where all sorts of candidates emerge from the woodwork, the positions are generally contested and emotions run high. I've never run in the ASUW Elections, but may of my friends have, so I know the experience well. This year is unique because there are only two actual tickets, with few spoiler candidates... which provides the first real opportunity in the past three years to have non-greek voters to put all of their votes behind a non-greek ticket. Not sure how that's going to play out.

One tragic development in this year's ASUW elections is the endorsement of candidates by UW Leaders (recently renamed ASUW Leaders). I have a long standing beef with this group, but that's not the point. There has always been an understanding that ASUW entities do not endorse candidates. So when UW Leaders issued their endorsement I immediately looked to find the rule against the behavior... but to my shock, no such rule exists. So I wrote a Resolution of Student Opinion on the subject. However, my somewhat tongue-in-cheek approach has upset many of the candidates and elements of the Senate Leadership. I tell ya, people take things far too seriously.

Preliminary SAF Deliberations

The Services and Activities Fee Committee has one more meeting to go where we do the formal pomp of voting and final decision making. But prior to that meeting the members have a meeting where we hammer out the real issues and set the allocation levels. Since its a public meeting, and anyone could have been there, I feel no shame in revealing to my expansive readership the juicy details. Student Counseling Center, who made there first every pitch to SAF this year, is getting on $40,000 of the $178,000 they requested; Recreational Sport's capital budget is getting only $100,000 of the $150,000 requested; the Ethnic Cultural Center is getting $14,000 less than requested (out of a $500,000+ budget... I'm expecting to be called a racist); UWCares, our night escort program, is being cut entirely; and best of all, the Fee itself will be reduced (for the first time EVER) from $97 to $94 per quarter.

GPSS Treasurer

As of today, I am the only candidate for the GPSS Treasurer position. The GPSS Treasurer is one of four GPSS Officers that run the Graduate student government. Its a pretty exciting job in that I keep my seat on SAF, I take direct authority over the GPSS $250,000+ budget, I get my own assistant, and free tuition! Not to mention it is a great position from which to encourage needed structural change in the Senate.

Mock Filibuster

This is crazy idea I picked up from a few news articles about on campus filibuster events. Students, professors, and whoever all get together and talk for 9 hours straight in a show of support for the filibuster. Although the idea is still in its infancy, Lindsay and I are trying to make this happen by the end of this month. More news to come as we figure out what's going on.

Gillmore v. Ashcroft Gonzalez

Attended an interesting mock trial event yesterday where the plaintifs in Gillmore v. Ashcroft (since renamed) presented their arguments before a mock panel of 9th circuit judges. The case deals with an unpublished security directive requiring photo ID to board an airplane. The problem with the case, as I see it, is the plaintiff doesn't want to have to show his ID, period, but their only real legal argument is the rule is unconstitutional if it is unpublished. Should they win on that issue, and Gillmore has his written piece of paper with the law on it, I don't believe Gillmore will have accomplished the goal he set out to meet.

The Broadcast Flag

Good news in the technology front. This morning the DC Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Broadcast Flag imposed by the FCC. This means the content industry will NOT have a say as to what kind of electronics consumers are allowed to buy. Having failed to get satisfaction from the FCC, Hollywood, et all., will turn on Congress for statutory authority. It will be interested to see if they can wield that kind of power on the Hill. If last year's session is an indicator of anything, I would suggest they have a very tough battle ahead of themselves.