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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 29, 2001)
Editor Sarah Baker
Opinion Page Editor Jake Glazeski
Managing Editor Bradley Davis
Time to act
President Bush's first week
falls short of unification
The first week of the next four years is over,
and even though it’s only a few days into the
Bush administration’s term, it’s time for some
The pundits have turned in their reviews,
which were mosdy positive, and have lauded
George W. Bush as leading one of the smoothest
transitions into the White House.
A surprise after the debacle of the election.
But maybe even more surprising was the
mixed bag of controversy Bush stirred up in his
opening seven days.
Bush’s first full day in office held a controver
sial decision on one of the most divisive issues in
the country: abortion.
Bush’s denial to aid foreign groups that pro
vide abortion counseling made us squirm.
It also surprised us and disappointed us,
especially as it came in the week following an
inauguration speech that called for non-parti
sanship and an America that could come
These foreign nations, under this new denial,
can’t even advise women of their options with
out risking funds from the states.
It’s a decision in direct contrast to Bush’s cam
paign speak, which led us to believe that he
believed less abortion, not no abortion, was the
This decision makes us think Bush may have
changed his mind, as it's a step toward the elim
ination of abortion. That’s not what we were
hoping for, and it’s certainly not a step toward a
The big issue of the first week, though, was
education, and while not as partisan an issue as
abortion, it’s still a divisive one.
We’re not sure how feasible the voucher plan,
which gives schools time to get their acts togeth
er, is. But we do know that Bush worked hard to
make the plan acceptable to Democrats and
that at least leaves a grain of hope.
Probably the biggest surprise of Bush’s first
week in office was the unlikely support from
Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve Board
chairman, who validated Bush’s tax program to
Congress on Thursday.
Greenspan, an ardent supporter of former
President Bill Clinton, gave both Bush and the
tai cut a big boost, and with his support, it’s a
good chance that more, if not many more,
Democrats will go for the plan.
Many of the most contentious issues still
remain up for debate, and as the second week of
the administration begins, welfare and prescrip
tion drugs both are on the docket
Bush will introduce his plan to make it easier
for religious organizations to tap into millions of
federal tax dollars to provide social services nor
mally reserved for government, much like he
tried to do in his home state ofTexas as governor.
The issue of church and state is sure to come
Bush also will propose his plan to provide
prescription drugs to senior citizens through
Medicare. He proposes a complete revamp of
the program to give seniors a choice of health
plan including some that include drug coverage.
In an earlier editorial, we called for Bush to
put his money where his mouth is and to show
us, not just tell us, that he wants to bring the
And after these seven days, all we can say is
we’re not so sure he’s following through.
The Associated Press contributed to this edi
Sarah Baker, Jeff Bloom, Bradley Davis, Jake Glazeski,
Matthew Hansen, Samuel McKewon, Kimberly Sweet
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Unsigned edtorials are the opinions of the Spring 2001 Daily Nebraskan. They do not necessarily
reflect the views of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, its employees, its student body or the
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I am a rock. I am an island
My life is like waiting for
the walk sign when no cars are
I look both ways and, after
deciding to wait this one out, I
pull out my 'grets and a book
of matches. I perch a filter on
my lips and light up. I stand
there, my toes jutting over the
The light turns over, and I
start walking. There’s this
piece by Rachmaninov; it's called "The Isle of the
Dead,” and it depicts the ferryman Charon taking a
recently deceased soul to a place called, appropriate
ly enough, the “Me of the Dead.”
The piece is predominantly in an asymmetrical
meter, 5/4 probably, and that asymmetry symbolizes
Charon’s rowing, longer on one stroke than the next
The piece progresses slowly, and the whole thing is
filled with slowly ascending melodies and hypnoti
cally rising arpeggios, rising as still does the soul,
yearning for a life no longer its own.
It ends, at the very end, with the soul on the island
dreaming of its life now past a light and sad melody,
high in die orchestra’s register and descending as
reality sets in. I have no way of knowing if
Rachmaninov’s depiction is accurate -1 don’t think
anything “happens” after death, there is no entity left
that perceives - but nothing I have ever heard has
been more “true” than that piece, so unarguably due.
The night is cold and dark as I walk, and a fresh
dusting of snow blows across the sidewalk in patterns
reminding me of deserts and further of the Sandhills.
I’ve known so many people. I rifle through a list of
images of people I've known and their names, which
I sometimes don't remember. I begin at the beginning
and end at the present, Amy, Margaret, Matt, Angela,
Angela, Jeanine, Nicole, Joy, Tom, Christie, Brian,
Emily... the list goes on. I’ve known so many people.
If I stand long enough, maybe my image will be car
ried to a bored surfer somewhere, and we will have a
private moment of communion as we are digitally
aware of each other. I purse my lips in a salute to my
companion. I turn bade toward my dorm.
I present my ID to get back in my dorm, feeling a
little hoax-like. I am not swaggering in drunkenness,
nor am I with a large group of laughing people. I have
no stories to tell after this evening, nothing learned,
no classic richness to reflect upon once I am 35 and
old. But I’m 22 and old, so it's - as they say, the
young”ns - it’s all good.
I go downstairs -you have to go downstairs to go
upstairs in my dorm -1 go downstairs and debate
what I will do with myself. I can e-mail people, or I can
go to bed. My stomach protests; I haven’t eaten for six
hours. I could eat Citrus soda sounds good.
Ideddetoe-mailafewpeople. Business contacts.
The lab is lopsidedly full, everyone on the PCs, so I
take a Mac. I finish. I leave the lab the same way I
found it, walking through a cloud of body odor,
attached to no one in particular
My feet on the raspberry tiles clop one after the
other, and I change my gait so as to make them clop
more richly. The washing machines rumble at the
end of the hall. I feast on the sounds, my ears are full,
my hunger is transmuted in a confusion of sensory
I go through the list of people again, people I don't
see much anymore. Rob, Scott, Brian, Katy, Scott, Joe,
Casey. I'll see them around and remember the lives
I’ve lived. My life is more in the past than it is in the
present It's a life lived as a consequence of what no
It's a sad thing, to be born an alien. You don’t know
the language, you don’t understand the culture. You
spend your life catching u;, all the while the back
ground music is something by Simon and Garfunkel.
I have a CD by them, “Live in Central Park.” You can
hear an anti-government sentiment in the crowd.
I walk up the stairs to my room and open the door.
This shady history of people I've known keeps me
company, assures me that I am, indeed, capable
at maintaining human rela
tionships, at least for
short time spans. I take A
another drag and let
my hand fall back to
my side as I pick up my
already brisk pace. The
night howls cold. The ... M
trees around me are "**”■
bare save for shriv
eled, overripe berries. j
I reach campus
finally and the
sidewalks are \
time isn’t for half
an hour. I pull my ‘jj
coat sleeve up, my
cigarette clipped r
straight fingers; yes, JH'1'
half an hour now, jS
I’m just coining
from a bar; and my
coat is burned
with the smell of i
smoke. There's a
new bill in the leg- g|
islature limiting F
smoking in restau
rants, and higher
ups on campus
have removed all -
the ashtrays - I
think of this while a
flick of the fingers
sends a bit of ash
wild into the night.
The bar was crowd
ed, and I paid 50
cents to check my
coat, an expense
which I decided ulti
mately was worth
about 30 minutes.
That is, 30 minutes
before I would leave in an
introspective fit of boredom
and disillusionment. An
unfortunate number of my
evenings end this way. I’m not sure
why that is.
My cig is burned out, and I drop it, littering, as I
walk by the union. They have a camera watching me
right now, somewhere in the darkness, and it updates
once every minute or so on the UNL Web site.
I stop and look for it I expect it to be on Canfield,
but maybe it's on Love, that’s why I’ve never found it
The light, overhead, flickers. One of
the fluorescent tubes has burned out, so that it is dark
even during the day. It’s been that way for a month; I
haven’t gotten around to changing it. My clean
clothes lie strewn, unfolded, across the floor where I
dumped them as I finished laundry before going out
I really should hang them up.
tion of liberty is
when it is neces
sary for liberty
itself, to prevent
an invasion of
would be still
- John Rawls,
“A Theory of Justice”
Many of the most controversial
issues of our day - such as abortion, drug
use, gambling, prostitution, sodomy and
assisted suicide - are complex and
The debates rage on several levels:
religious and ethical concerns, historical
and philosophical underpinnings and
empirical effects on society.
At their core, however, each of these
issues has one thing in common that
places them in the public eye: their con
troversial relation to the criminal law.
The debate is not so much about
whether these things should be encour
aged or discouraged, but whether the
machinery of the criminal justice system
should be used to stop them.
The problem, of course, is that the
people who decide whether these prac
tices will be legal or illegal - the public
and its representatives - usually have no
principle method of making such deci
Instead, decisions are based on gut
instinct” or religious doctrine. “What I
like” becomes “What should be legal,”
and “What I don’t like” becomes “What
should be illegal”
Because of this failure to see the big
picture, our criminal law is a hodge
podge of incoherent and irrational laws,
with no consistent justification.
At one time, New York set a maxi
mum penalty of 10 years for first degree
assault and a maximum of 20 years for
sodomy, Pennsylvania set seven years
for assault with intent to kill and a 10 year
maximum for pandering, and California
had a two year maximum for “corporal
injury to wife or child,” but 15 years for
“perversion.” (Feinberg, 1985).
in ms iour-voiume senes, l ne Moral
Limits of the Criminal Law,” philosopher
Joel Feinberg discussed the most promi
nent justifications for the criminal law.
He argued that a desire to prevent peo
ple from harming themselves (“Legal
Paternalism”) or a belief that certain
conduct is inherently immoral (“Legal
Moralism”) are not valid justifications to
enact a criminal law.
Feinberg believed that only two jus
tifications for the criminal law were
valid: the prevention of harm to others
(the "Harm Principle”) and the preven
tion of serious offense to others (the
Feinberg’s support for laws criminal
izing conduct that merely offends others
has come under serious attack because
of the danger such laws present to civil
liberties. His advocacy of the Harm
Principle, on the other hand, has a dis
Thomas Jefferson summarized the
principle in his pithy remark that “the
legitimate powers of government extend
to such acts only as are injurious to oth
ers,” but the idea was first articulated
and explored by John Stuart Mill in his
classic, "On Liberty.”
Mill believed passionately that free
dom of expression had real value only
when linked to freedom of conduct.
Therefore, he argued that laws based on
paternalistic desires (such as our mod
em-day drug laws) or the religious fervor
of some segments of society (such as
sodomy laws) are unjust and ultimately
cause more harm than they prevent
As Mill put it "The liberty of the indi
vidual must be thus far limited; he must
not make himself a nuisance to other
people. But if he refrains from molesting
others in what concerns them, and
merely acts according to his own inclina
tion and judgment in things which con
cern himself, the same reasons which
show that opinion should be free, prove
also that he should be allowed, without
molestation, to carry his opinions into
practice at his own cost”
Mill may have underestimated the
problems inherent in the Harm
Principle. Even if society were to adopt it,
there would still be debates over how
much harm is too much or whether the
harm is too indirect
But at the very least, the Harm
Principle provides a rational area of dis
course. Our current reasons for enacting
many criminal laws, "God says it’s
wrong” or “I just don’t like it,” do not
even accomplish that much.
Of course, no single book or essay
(and certainly no newspaper column)
provides the answer in a neat little pack
age. The point is that we must read, think
and even write about these issues
because they have real-world signifi
Our criminal justice system is pow
erful and sometimes deadly; we have a
corresponding responsibility to think
carefully before we determine its targets.
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