What is the value of justice when dealing with human life?

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Jun 242008
 
Authors: Seth Anthony

I first came to CSU in June of 2005. Less than three weeks after I arrived, CSU graduates Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe were murdered in Aurora.

I never knew them or their families, but they were part of the CSU community, which, by all accounts, was enriched by their lives.

This past week, their killer, Sir Mario Owens, was sentenced to death.

The death penalty isn’t something that anyone takes lightly, and Rhonda Fields, Javad Marshall-Fields mother, discussed the evolution of her views on the death penalty in a recent Rocky Mountain News article. Previously opposed to capital punishment, she now supports the sentence passed down on her son’s killer.

“You know,” she said, “to me [life without parole] would be like he got two free murders.”

I can’t pretend to understand the emotions and experiences that these parents have endured — having to bury a child, having to sit through a trial where the details of their deaths are recounted, having to talk to the media about it year after year. The emotional impact of it all has to be overwhelming, and just getting by day to day has to require enormous strength and resolve.

There’s a disturbing coldness to this type of reasoning, though.

Rejecting one sentence because it doesn’t sufficiently match the severity of the crime feels almost like trying to balance accounts on some sort of cosmic ledger sheet. Deduct two murders from the account of Sir Mario Owens, deposit one execution, and are the books of justice suddenly balanced?

And yet, the merit of the sentence, at least for those who sought it, seems to be couched entirely in the terms of this sort of justice, the idea that one action demands one particular type of response.

“For me, it is not about revenge, it is about seeing justice done for my son and Vivian,” Fields said.

Christine Wolfe, Vivian Wolfe’s mother, has said, “We only know that we lost our child, and really justice is being served.”

Prosecutor John Hower commented, “We believe it is a very just verdict.”

Monica Owens, the mother of the man who now faces death for his crimes, sees things differently.

She commented after the trial that she wanted “to let the jurors and the mothers that wish death upon my son [know] that to me they’re no different than what they accuse him of, this murder.”

Few people would say that there’s a moral equivalence between the deaths of Javad Marshall-Fields and Vivian Wolfe and the possible execution of Sir Mario Owens. The intensity of her words, though, is understandable, from a mother who has just learned that she’s going to lose her son, not just to prison, but for good.

The nugget of truth in her statement is that the mothers and the jurors, through their declarations and their verdicts, do “wish death” upon Owens. They desire that he die in order that justice be served.

Sir Mario Owens also desired that Javad and Vivian die when he ambushed their car on an Aurora street corner, but for different reasons.

Any legal system takes intent into account, and the intent behind these two wishes for death is what causes us to call one “justice” and the other “murder.” It’s that threshold of intent that our society uses to either sanction or condemn the taking of life.

Before the death sentence was announced, Rhonda Fields said that, to murderers like Owens, “human life is nothing.”

I was brought up to believe that human life is of immeasurable value.

It turns out, according to our legal system, that it’s somewhere in between.

The human life of Sir Mario Owens appears to be worth only slightly less than the value of our collective sense of “justice.” At least the cosmic ledger sheets are balanced.

Seth Anthony is a graduate student working towards his doctorate in chemistry. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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Our View: Get out and ride your bike

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Jun 242008
 
Authors:

At the Collegian we have always claimed to be proponents of environmental activism, although most of us drive our cars to work every day and buy products from large corporate entities like Wal-Mart that are slowly eating our planet away while claiming to be “green.”

In short, we’re like most of America — all talk but no rock when it comes to the environment.

Fortunately, some folks have taken the reins of the problem and started real initiatives to help the planet.

Take Bike Week for example.

This week-long string of events sponsored by the City of Fort Collins is meant to encourage citizens young and old to leave the SUV at home and take the streets on two wheels.

For today’s event, citizens across Fort Collins will be biking to work. For their trouble, free breakfast will be provided at temporary stations all across Fort Collins.

We here at the Collegian would like to encourage every working citizen to hop on the bicycle bandwagon and participate tomorrow.

Not only will it help cut down on car emissions, but it’s great exercise. And, as an added bonus, think about those couple gallons of gas you’re saving.

Given the extra perks of rocking the bike and the downsides of sticking with autos — especially the $4 per gallon pump prices — it’s a wonder more people don’t do it every day. Hopefully after this week, that’ll change.

Have a happy Bike Week, Fort Collins. And try not to get hit by those slow Fort Collins motorists.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Supreme Court stands by Justice

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Jun 242008
 
Authors: Sean Reed

Justice is making a comeback.

In a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a striking blow to the Bush administration on June 12 by ruling that so-called enemy combatants being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have the right to challenge their detention in federal court.

The Court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, overturned part of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that removed federal court jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus petitions from Guantanamo detainees.

This ruling puts an end to six years of shady U.S. anti-terror policy that began when the first detainees were brought to the camp in 2002, and has stirred up a political hornet’s nest perfect for election season.

The dissenting justices were scathing in their retort and, in the opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, suggested the move “would almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed,” an idea that was quickly picked up by the right.

According to the New York Times, at a town hall meeting in New Jersey the day following the announcement of the ruling, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain echoed the sentiments of the dissenters and called it “one of the worst decisions in the history of the country.”

Of course, the detractors of this important ruling are forgetting one important thing: if the detainees are allowed to challenge their imprisonment in the courts — one of our most sacred constitutional protections from tyranny — it does not necessarily mean they will be set free.

By granting the prisoners the right of habeas corpus, the Court is merely requiring that the Bush administration submit evidence to appealing detainees that they are being held lawfully.

If a case can be presented for why an individual detainee is being held, they aren’t going anywhere.

However, if no such evidence exists, detention will end. And that’s really the way it should be. The great fear in all this, of course, is that guilty terrorists will go free. And it definitely is a possibility. But, given the track record of the Guantanamo facility, many of the guilty already have.

According to the BBC, some 775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo since the camp opened first started housing terror suspects in 2002. Of those, about 420 have been released without charge.

The Pentagon has speculated that, of those released, nearly 40 are “confirmed or suspected of having returned to terrorism.”

It is also important to note that, to date, not one single prisoner has been convicted of any crime related to terrorist activities. But to give the government credit, six are currently set to stand trial at an indeterminate time for crimes related to the 9/11 attacks.

Now, I may be alone on this, but if the government is going to deny as basic of a right as the ability to challenge the lawfulness of one’s imprisonment, they should at least be getting tangible results – especially after six years. Given the fact that these results haven’t come, there is no justification for the continuation of this draconian policy.

Fundamental constitutional rights need to be respected. It’s been a long time coming, but the Supreme Court made the right call on this one.

Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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Tickle Me Pink bassist found dead in room

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Jun 242008
 
Authors: Erik Myers

Johnny Schou, bassist of popular Fort Collins-based band Tickle Me Pink, was found dead in his room earlier Tuesday morning, according to the band’s Web site. No further details have been made available at this time. Schou was 22.

The Fort Collins Coloradoan reported that an autopsy report by the Larimer County Coroner’s Office was inconclusive.

The band, which formed in Fort Collins in 2005, debuted their first national release, the album Madeline, today through the group’s label, Wind-up Records.

Representatives with Wind-up Records did not immediately return phone calls.

Staff writer Erik Myers can be reached at news@collegian.com

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Ft. Collins gears up for BrewFest

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Jun 242008
 
Authors:

Starting at 11 a.m. Saturday and ending at 6 p.m. Sunday, the 19th annual Colorado Brewery Festival will be held in Old Town Fort Collins. The event will feature beer from breweries around the state, food from Fort Collins vendors and music from local bands.

/ 50 Colorado beers

/ 400 kegs

/ $10 for two-day pass

/ $6 for one-day pass

/ $2 for one beer token

/ Three different bands playing each day

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New art comes to CSU campus [SLIDESHOW]

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Jun 242008
 
Authors: Aaron Montoya

Five new monumental sculptures have recently appeared on campus, some standing 34 feet high.

The bent and twisted steel beams are the works of an artist named Bret Price who works from studios in Ohio and California.

Facilities Management agreed to pay between $15,000 and $20,000 for the delivery and installation of the pieces, said Gary Voss, a sculpture professor and future chair of the Art Department.

Facilities Management officials who know the exact amount did not return a call for comment.

Price delivered his works via truck from Ohio, where he creates his art, and Colorado Springs where his piece titled “XO” was recently on display as part of the city’s “Art on the Streets” exhibition.

Citing “torrential rain,” Price said only two pieces were installed the day he delivered them. The other three installations were postponed in order for the ground to dry and were placed Thursday, June 12.

According to Price, the pieces are on loan to CSU for at least one year.

The effort to bring monumental sculptures to campus is an attempt to revitalize a program called Sculpturescape that previously brought different sculptures to campus every two years.

The bi-ennial juried exhibition began in 1998 and was cut in 2004 due to “dwindling state resources” according to the program’s Web site.

The program previously featured pieces made of wood, steel and other types of metal suitable for outdoor installation.

Although the program is not officially reinstated, Voss hopes Price’s work will spur university administrators to restart the exhibition’s engines.

“Maybe we can bring the program back when the funding is good,” Voss said.

He also said that programs like Sculpturescape are the first to get cut when budgets tighten, and rightfully so. He said maintaining classrooms for students are more important than programs like Sculpturescape.

Price will exhibit some of his new smaller-scale work at the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art in January.

Editor-in-chief Aaron Montoya can be reached at editor@collegian.com.

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Teachers face off on economic solutions

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Jun 242008
 
Authors: Aaron Hedge

Economics professor Martin Shields stood in front of about 20 Fort Collins residents Monday night and told them that the only way to fix the economy is to provide more funding for education.

He cited statistics showing that, on average in northern Colorado, people with college degrees make nearly $40,000 more than workers who had dropped out of high school, and that the disparity is growing steadily.

At the same meeting, though, philosophy professor Philip Cafaro thinks the U.S. would be looking up financially on seven conditions:

Increase the minimum wage to half the average hourly wage

Expand the earned income tax credit

Create a more progressive federal and state tax structure

Repeal the Taft-Hartly Act to make stronger unions and create an employee free tax act

Limit immigration

Enact universal health care, and

Require high-school students to take a financial management class.

But some Fort Collins residents are skeptical, as they expressed at the community forum, which was hosted by Democratic state Reps. Randy Fischer and John Kefalas.

“If I were the CEO of a company making widgets, I would move overseas today,” said one the community members attending the forum in response to increasing minimum wage.

But Cafaro, who has seen the economy flourish in countries like Austria, where the average convenience store employee is guaranteed at least six weeks of vacation a year and makes a much bigger hourly wage than their U.S. counterpart, says that although economic growth has been spectacular since the turn of the century, economic disparity has steadily grown in the last 25 years.

“Growth clearly is not the answer here,” he said. “We have to do something different. . It’s almost as if everyone got a college education, we’d be fine. Well we wouldn’t, because someone still has to take out the garbage.”

He said that, despite the challenges of his proposals, anything is possible, mentioning his history in foreign countries.

“I think Americans are suffering from a massive lack of imagination,” he said in response to an audience member who questioned the economic viability of raising the minimum wage.

Colorado has a minimum wage of $7.02 — nearly $2 more than the $5.15 federal mandate. But Shields said it doesn’t help.

Using the example of his own students, he said raising the minimum wage doesn’t affect the price paid by companies on average to undergraduates.

“I asked all of my students if they work and most of them did,” he said. “Then I asked them if they made minimum wage, and none of them did.”

They all made more than the minimum.

“Economists are not good at talking about fairness — that’s not part of the vernacular,” he said earlier in the presentation. To fix the problem that has been the subject of headline news for several months, Shields encouraged politicians to increase funding for higher education and reduce outsourcing.

“As a society as a whole, we have decided it’s okay to have cheap stuff and put people out of jobs,” he said.

News Managing Editor Aaron Hedge can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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Students bring diversity to CSU

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Jun 242008
 
Authors: Shari Blackman

“Let’s not kill ourselves with gangs and drugs, ’cause not only can we survive, but we can do it well,” said Faith Goins to an enthusiastic audience of her peers from across the nation.

Most of them had met a mere three days before and were now cheering each other’s performances of original poetry, African song and dance and piano.

Goins, a student from Aurora Central High School, participated in CSU’s Black Issues Forum, which brought 40 black high school juniors to stay in campus dormitories June 17 through Saturday to research and discuss issues unique to the black community.

Friday’s “Open Mic Night” provided the select group of students a chance to cement connections and express cultural creativity before Saturday’s presentations, which were the culmination of three days of research into the lives of CSU students.

“These types of programs are really good for kids,” said Bobby Browning, assistant director for the Office of Admissions. He added that it was difficult to choose only 40 participants from 75 applicants this year, the most the program has ever seen.

“We had to raise the GPA to 3.5,” Browning said of the admission requirements. “Students have to be college eligible.”

Anna Arevalos, director of Undergraduate Recruitment, said this year’s program was expanded by a day so students would have more time for research and informal interaction with current CSU students who were past BIF participants.

Students chose one of four topics to research, working in groups of 10 to prepare for a 30-minute presentation. Browning hires four college students to assist.

Nathan Brown, of Overland High School in Aurora is researching, “The Importance of a College Education for African Americans.”

The university offers a $10,000 scholarship for program participants who choose to attend CSU, Brown said.

“Being here, seeing dorm rooms, definitely puts a boost on it,” said Brown, who plans to study engineering, but is also considering Florida A&M for college.

Brown’s friend from Overland High, Eriq Shipp, wants to be a dentist, but will pursue a bachelor’s degree in business first. He’s not sure if he’ll choose CSU, but he praised the Black Issues Forum.

“I like that they keep us busy and that they’re giving us the thank-yous,” Shipp said. “It’s hard to get recognized for what you’re doing.”

Alexandria Grant of Dallas echoed Shipp’s sentiments.

“I want to prove to the whole society that black women aren’t just out there having babies and black men aren’t all going to jail. We can do valuable things in society,” said Grant, who plans to study political science.

Lawrence Martin, from Chicago, Ill., wants to be a pharmacist and help bring affordable health insurance to low-income consumers, especially those in the black community. Martin said his participation in the Black Issues Forum has made him want to stop procrastinating and get started on his plans to promote a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease when he goes back to his high school.

Days in the program are activity-packed starting at 7:45 a.m. with breakfast in Parmelee Hall, and proceeding to library research, small group discussions and leadership workshops, or speakers on topics informing students on how to plan for college and what CSU has to offer. Finally, at 9 p.m., networking or a social activity caps the day’s learning.

Though Grant said the days are long, “It’s not work. It’s just bonding.”

“I came in a little timid,” she said, “but it’s maturing me. I’m finding out what qualities I possess.”

Proud parents and grandparents attended Saturday morning to support and observe student presentations in the Lory Student Center. Tracy Lovett was the assistant director of Admissions at CSU when she worked with others to develop BIF. Sixteen years later she sat in the packed East Ballroom to watch her daughter, Zuri Randell, a student at Colorado Academy in Denver, deliver her group presentation. In Lovett’s family, CSU is a tradition. She earned her bachelor’s degree at CSU and her father also did his graduate studies here.

“It’s a blessing that the university has committed all these years to this program,” Lovett said. “I feel very fortunate.”

Staff writer Shari Blackman can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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The Democrats who once cried change now just cry

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Jun 172008
 
Authors: J. David McSwane

How many Democrats does it take to screw up an election?

It sounds like the beginning of a joke, and maybe it is. But I’d have to say in terms of election-screwing the Democrats are quite the team players.

As poised as they were to clinch this presidential election — consider the embarrassing and drastic blunders of the Bush administration — the Democrats seem to be more focused on clipping their front line.

From absurd accusations of plagiarism, to Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s rightfully angry racial commentary that was unfairly turned into anti-American sentiment, to tiffs over who wears an American flag pin and who does not, the Democrats have beautifully stained a once legitimate cry for change in the highest political office.

Surely, blame falls in part on both Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton for that widely televised tickle-and-slap fest we’re all relieved to hear has ended. Clinton’s stunning performance, however, deserves a little detention and “I will not screw up any more elections” a thousand times on the chalkboard.

Now, it’s up to Obama, a neophyte, to unite, even begrudgingly, a party half-stacked against him by Clinton, an experienced saboteur.

According to a recent Gallup poll, more than 28 percent of poor-sported Hillary-ites now vow to vote against the Democrats in the general election. Some might call it a very irrational and detrimental sort of collective action on behalf of a handful of Democrats. I’m going to have to stick with stupid.

Meanwhile, the Republicans have foregone any talk of social change in politics as they haul for the White House. And Republican Sen. John McCain couldn’t ask for more Democratic fumbling to guide his way . well, maybe John Kerry or a caffeinated Howard Dean could seal the deal.

And McCain — with a sound and consistent agenda ripped straight from Bush’s personal White House strategy guide: “Murder and War Deluxe Colorforms Playset” — promises to save us from that stint of progressive idealism we once witnessed in the early Democratic primary.

We knew early on that Obama had “change” on his mind, which may or may not have been similar or identical, to the “change” spouted by the Clinton campaign — or possibly neither or both.

Truly, the most difficult part of the Democratic primary was identifying any real difference between the two major candidates — aside from the most obvious, of course, being race and gender.

Any Republican might find this strategy confusing or, for the literate ones, laughable.

But from a Democrat’s perspective, it’s important to note that no positive “change” should be confused with another, though identical or similar in desired outcome, but entirely opposite.

It’s true; the media and the public at large just can’t handle the concept of two competing individuals sharing core principles. And when our children look back on this election, they’ll have the hindsight we all lacked to realize black men and free-thinking women have nothing in common, and despite their unique yet common-threaded marginalization in our society, just can never be friends. And Democrats hate each other, too. Like Bush hates dictionizing.

Party doubt, senseless squabbling and an idiotic segmentation of men and women, black and white have already begun to overshadow a once vibrant rally call of modern liberals.

But the tide is turning, with Clinton now backing Obama, which could help solidify the perception that the Democrats truly are as fake and soulless as she (I’d argue about only 28 percent or so).

In this election the left’s cheap shot tactics seem almost — and I hate to say this — Republican. They just forgot to aim the cannon at the enemy or, say, the other party.

Despite all the hype and the record number of young people skipping to the primaries, now, in this election, the best presidential selling point appears to be the status quo. On TV, it looks much better than well-intentioned chaos.

J. David McSwane is a senior technical journalism major. His column appears occasionally in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Our View: Collegian needs your feedback

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Jun 172008
 
Authors:

Hello fellow Rams who have immersed yourselves in classes, day jobs and, hopefully, some relaxation during the summer months in Fort Collins. We hope you’re all enjoying the strange peace and quiet that has filled the absence left by the majority of about 25,000 CSU students.

During this lull, the Collegian staff will continue to work hard seeking to report on the stories that strike you as interesting. White water rafting, Brew Fest and campus construction are just a few of the ideas on our list for summer coverage.

While we enjoy the relative quiet around town, it is our job to make sure that is not reflected in empty Collegian pages. But we need your help.

The Collegian staff is asking you, the reader, to point out those things that stick out to you this summer. If you have a quirky professor teaching your summer class, or you witnessed a parking lot attendant nearly get run over by an angered ticket recipient, or anything strikes you as newsworthy this summer, please drop us a line.

You can contact the Collegian via e-mail at news@collegian.com. Editor-in-Chief Aaron Montoya can be contacted directly in his office at (970) 491-1688 or by e-mail at editor@collegian.com.

In addition to a call for news tips, the Collegian is always available to hear your questions, concerns and ideas, so never hesitate to drop us a line and tell us what’s up. We would love to hear what you think.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm