Archive | Point Counterpoint

Against concealed carry on campus

Posted on 03 November 2011 by Evan Umpir

The Wisconsin State Legislature passed Act 35 this past summer, allowing weapons to be carried in the state concealed from public view. This is a major shift for Wisconsin, as prior to Act 35, the state had open-carry, but the right to carry a weapon in plain view was rarely exercised. This is a step forward for Wisconsin as we now join forty-eight other states with concealed-carry laws, leaving Illinois as the only state not having such a law. However, the debate for us is not about concealed carry – it is about concealed carry on Marquette’s campus. In this instance, I think that Marquette has made a good decision to bar weapons from being carried on campus.

At the recent student forum, Fr. Pilarz stated that what it comes down to is following the law, and this is exactly what Marquette is going to do. The policy states that employees, students, guests and contractors are not permitted to “carry any weapons on university property except as expressly permitted by applicable State law; openly carry any weapons on university property; carry any weapons in any university building or leased space or at any university special event marked with signage specifying ‘Weapons are prohibited in this building.’” This policy applies to all weapons, not just firearms. To the extent possible within the law, Marquette will be banning weapons on campus.

What necessitates this change? We’ve gotten by fine without weapons before Act 35. Why, now that we have a concealed carry law in Wisconsin, is everyone enthusiastic about the right to carry a concealed weapon? Nothing on Marquette’s campus magically changed on November first when the law took effect to increase the desire to pack heat. Dozens of colleges have banned weapons on campus in states that have concealed carry laws. According to a compilation of college campus shootings by Google, approximately twenty-two shootings have occurred since 1990 – that’s approximately one shooting per year. There is not an epidemic of college shootings that arming students would prevent. The infrequency of college shootings and the insignificant effect armed students have during school shootings clearly show that current bans are not detrimental to the safety of college campuses.

Life on college campuses often involves some drug use and alcohol consumption that could impair the judgment of a law-abiding gun owner. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study that found that those with alcohol problems are more likely to have firearms with them at school. “These alcohol-related behaviors suggest that college gun owners are more likely than those who do not own guns to engage in activities that put themselves and others at risk for severe or life-threatening injuries. Damaging property when intoxicated suggests an inability to contain aggressive impulses.” The logical connection between drinking impairing judgment and shortening tempers and gun ownership should be clear: the two do not mix. This negative connectivity should be recognized. Although there are provisions in Act 35 to prevent the sale of alcohol to people that are believed to possess a firearm, it’s called concealed carry for a reason; even the most astute bartender might oversee a hidden weapon.

Furthermore, the Wisconsin law has provisions that require the obtainer of a permit to be at least 21 years old. With only about a third of the student body eligible to obtain permits (and not all would bring a weapon to campus even if permitted), how could a policy that would allow students to carry weapons be effective? This is just another practical reason that shows that having weapons on campus would not improve the safety of the campus in any substantial way.

Ultimately, allowing weapons on campus is a Pandora’s Box. DPS should devote its time to more important issues. Weapons have been banned on dozens of college campuses for years and the infrequency of situations where carrying weapons could prove useful are few and far between. This is common sense: guns and school don’t mix and never have.

by Evan Umpir
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The face of politics is changing: Will is be recognizable after November 2?

Posted on 02 November 2010 by WarriorAdmin

There is battle raging this election season for the soul of America. Sure, every election cycle is a scuffle, and granted every time some politician makes the claim that without their victory all will be lost.

But consider that for the first time in American politics there is a true conservative movement attempting to win the hearts of the populace – something truly unheard of on a national scale.

For decades, Europe has seen the rise of far right political groups – the Nazis of German (one of the furthest right), the Conservatives of Britain, and the Union for French Democracy in France, to name a few. However, these and other European countries have far left movements that help to balance the political scale, many of which are self-proclaimed socialists.  

America has rarely seen fringe groups influence politics, until now, with the rise of the Tea Party, a movement committed to bringing America back to its “conservative roots.”

Republicans have always enjoyed the title of conservative, most wholly embracing it; but, few have ever held fast to the true definition of the word, and have thus suffered from the reallocation of support from incumbent republican centrists to those republicans that idealize the Tea Party’s take on conservative values.

Yet on the other side of the spectrum, the Democrats have always feared to embrace their titles, and have never ventured so far to the left to fraternize with fringe left groups. In fact, to label oneself a liberal or progressive was only done in the confidence of diehard supports.  And if the other side of the aisle used these titles in attack, democrats would vehemently defend against such labels claiming moderate values over leftist any day of the week.

However, history has shown some congressional hopefuls and current incumbents who embrace their liberal ideals with pride. Russ Feingold is one such character.

In the race for senate in Wisconsin two candidates present a focused lens into the greater climate of the 2010 elections. Ron Jonson, a self-made business man from Oshkosh and the republican candidate for senate who is backed by the Tea Party, is attempting to make Wisconsinites believe that his far right views are what the people have always wanted.

And Russ Feingold, the three-term incumbent, is fighting tooth and nail to show that it is his self-proclaimed progressive approach to legislation that has made Wisconsin – the founding place of progressivism – a voice of reason in congress.  

Yet, where is the far left? Where are the book reading, college educated, multi-racial progressives? Do they not see the gun-toting, primarily white, middle aged male tea party is attempting to speak as a majority, even though a CNN opinion poll found that only 10% of the population identify themselves as Tea Party supporters?

The point is, the Tea Party enjoys throwing around the idea that they are returning the US political system to what it was in the 1800s: small, agrarian, and isolationist. What they are overlooking is that their heavy involvement in this year’s elections is creating a system that looks more and more similar to that of Europe than any healthcare legislation could possibly achieve.

They are creating a new far right that will inevitably be counteracted by a new far left. A left that prior to the current political climate has slumbered since the days of FDR and barely made an appearance for the 2008 elections.

The majority of Americans identify as moderates or independents that see little truth in either extreme. With the evolution of the far gamut’s participation, it could be speculated that these newcomers to the system will pull political happenings further and further away from the center, alienating more members of the public than the current two-party system, slowing the legislative process further and deepening the rift between the people and their government.

Will voting for Russ or Ron be the deciding factor? I doubt it, but these election results will most likely reflect the results of elections nationwide, and show us what path the US will choose to walk -that which curves far right and leads us down a road we have never traveled, or one that wanders left but back to center and attempts to heal the wounds that 10 years of poor policy have inflicted.

You get to decide.

by Wade Balkonis
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Yes, Paid sick days promote strong families and strong businesses

Posted on 12 February 2009 by Jason Ardanowski

According to the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC), the leading opponent of Milwaukee’s paid sick day leave, “This mandate will make the City of Milwaukee an island of regulation.” Unless you are one of those who believe regulation is bad on principle – except when it ensures the purity of your drinking water, the safety of your streets and the unadulterated efficacy of your medicines – then the MMAC-filed injunction against the implementation of paid sick days is absurd.
Paid sick days fulfill our better impulses of promoting strong businesses and stronger families in the city of Milwaukee. We need to ensure that the 47% of private sector workers and the 75% of low-wage workers (those making less than $10/hour) can have the access to medical care for themselves and their loved ones that the more affluent workers in this city already enjoy. No one should have to make a forced choice between working while sick and seeking necessary medical care. Those of us at Marquette who enjoy good health most of the time should be generous, not stingy, with our privilege.

We have directed much of the attention around public health in the United States to the care and treatment of chronic disorders before they turn into something worse. The paid sick day ordinance is a concrete step towards putting our laws in line with our words. It enables a mother to take her son, who has a toothache, to the dentist for treatment, instead of her son contracting a gum infection and needing the tooth extracted. It allows a pregnant woman to take time off in the first and second trimesters to secure adequate prenatal care. It gives a man who works on a construction site, exposed to the elements, time off when he catches a nasty head cold from Wisconsin’s variable weather. When he decides to “tough it out” and keep working for lack of paid leave, the head cold can turn into bronchitis or pneumonia, requiring hospitalization and further costs (often borne by Badger Care, thus indirectly by our tax dollars).

In addition, businesses have every reason to support paid sick leave: who wants to transact business with sick employees? Low-wage workers are disproportionately in the food-service and janitorial industries. Do we want sick people preparing and serving our McNuggets? Do we want to step into a hotel room when the person who cleaned it had a hacking cough? Of course not! Only the ignorant among us would be indifferent to such things. The health and safety of fellow employees and the general public is on the line for businesses whose lack of sick leave compels people to work when they are feeling ill. We should not play roulette with our own health because of the short-sighted profit-seeking policies of a few local businesses.

When the Journal Sentinel endorsed the paid sick leave referendum on October 22, 2008 – a referendum, mind you, that passed with 69% of the vote, greater than the two-thirds majority required to override a Presidential veto – staff writer Ellen Bravo quoted a McDonald’s manager who said, “I’ve lost so many good employees because they didn’t have paid sick days.” A similar measure in San Francisco has markedly reduced employee turnover without any significant deterioration in economic growth. Better-informed, longer-tenured employees are generally happier and more productive, and firms can spend less money on recruiting and training new employees. The paid sick leave measure is a winning bargain for everybody in Milwaukee, whether you are at the bottom, the top or somewhere in the middle of the economic ladder.

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No, Milwaukee’s paid sick leave ordinance will hurt employers and employees

Posted on 12 February 2009 by Adam Ryback

Milwaukee’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance was supposed to take effect on February 10, 2009, after being enacted via a referendum. The ordinance states that employers must offer one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours of work, although not more than seventy-two hours for one year. However, smaller businesses shall only be required to pay for forty hours of sick leave a year.

At first, this bill looks harmless. In fact, it is very reasonable that people should have paid sick leave. But we have to remember that these are no longer the times of Teddy Roosevelt and Fighting Bob LaFollette. Working conditions are very good. People are no longer waking up at five in the morning and getting home at nine like my grandfather did.They’re going to work at nine and going home at five. The workplace is safer and more sanitary than it has been in the past. Yet, some people want to go far beyond any reasonable compromise and take nine days of sick leave every year.

Those in favor of the ordinance say that employers will actually benefit from the ordinance. But according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 99.9% of employers were against it. If the ordinance were in favor of employers, you would think that at least a few employers would be in favor of it. But most employers know that if paid sick leave is offered for nine days out of the year, people will take sick leave for nine days out of the year no matter how minuscule their sickness. It’s called human nature. The paid sick days should really be referred to as paid vacation days.

You really know there must be something wrong with the ordinance when the single largest employer in the nation, the government, is excluded from offering paid sick leave, not that the majority of government workers do not have enough benefits as it is. This ordinance excludes all government workers at the federal, state and local level.

Furthermore, small businesses will undoubtedly be hurt the most by this ordinance. It is true that the bill does make exceptions for them, but small businesses will still be harmed. This becomes even more relevant in light of the fact that many small businesses are facing extinction.

Among other things this ordinance was meant to prevent employees from being fired for taking days off to take care of medical issues for themselves or family members. Quite frankly, in economic times like these, if employers have to give paid sick leave for nine days out of the year, the businesses will have to cut jobs anyways. In fact, employers have already let go a lot of people because the economy is so bad.

Moreover, it is possible that some businesses may just get up and move to a neighboring suburb. Not to mention that companies will be unwilling to start up in Milwaukee. What does that mean? Job growth will take a drastic downturn. Many of those people who were so adamant about getting paid sick leave will have all the time off they want.

So while more employees get laid off and companies go out of business, voters in Milwaukee can remember why the founders of our nation were so frightened of a direct democracy where the electorate voted on the issues and why they chose to establish a representative democracy.

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YES – Israel’s response to Hamas is appropriate

Posted on 29 January 2009 by Austin Wozniak

There is a tendency to condemn Israeli military action as being disproportionate to the attacks it has suffered. Images of helicopters destroying buildings with rockets and tanks leveling barriers hastily erected by stone throwing Palestinians have been seared into the minds of many thanks to the omnipresence of CNN and the 24 hour news networks. The decision in 1948 to create the state of Israel has had one of the longest running effects on world peace in recorded history, and it has been a history filled with wrong doings by both sides. The Palestinians under Hamas have adopted a hard line approach, refusing to accept anything less than a restoration of the status quo prior to the existence of Israel. Israel has refused to abandon settlements to create a continuous Palestinian state in the West Bank, in spite of intense international pressure to do so, and has responded very heavy-handedly to past attacks and threats. Israel’s neighbors have launched surprise attacks and wars of aggression in the past, and many states have sworn to see Israel pushed into the sea. Palestinian’s remain an impoverished people with no homeland and little hope. The result is an extraordinary level of mistrust and mutual hatred that has contributed to more than 60 years of unrest.

However, the Hamas government in Gaza has repeatedly attacked Israel’s defenseless civilians using long range rockets supplied by foreign powers, deliberately attempting to kill or maim non-combatants. Whatever the differences between the two peoples, there is no condoning such actions and Israel is well within its right to remove a known terrorist organization from power when both its words and deeds indicate it is opposed to the continuing existence of Israel. Israel has gone to great lengths to avoid innocent Palestinian casualties, in spite of the deliberate attacks on Israeli innocents. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article which cited an example of Israel giving advance warning a known bomb manufacturing site was going to be bombed, allowing ample time for it to be cleared. Instead of evacuating, Hamas ordered women and babies inside the structure in the hopes of achieving a public relations victory. In light of this information, Israel opted not to bomb the structure. The bottom line is that Hamas has begun this conflict by attacking Israelis, and has expressed no interest in coexisting, therefore they can hardly complain when Israelis protect themselves. The use of Israel’s military is perfectly proportionate – it is not their fault that Hamas lacks helicopter gunships. It is also a proportionate response to remove a terrorist organization from power when they express no desire for peace.

The truce demanded by much of the international community is simply a means of restoring a status quo that has seen terrorists rise to power and attack Israelis, and therefore would honestly not be in the best interests of Israel. If any lasting peace accord is to be reached, it must be accompanied by a firm commitment from an international body of peacekeepers to prevent any attacks by Hamas against Israeli citizens, and it must come with a mandate to use force if necessary. Similarly, it must carry the promise of sanctions should Israel launch aggressive actions against the duly elected government of the Palestinian people. Unless Israel can be guaranteed of its safety, it retains the right, and indeed the obligation, to defend itself against all enemies – no other country would accept anything less, and neither should Israel. Until such time as a serious and credible cease fire agreement is proposed with guaranteed international backing, Israel is right to continue pursuing Hamas in Gaza by any conventional means necessary, so long as it takes reasonable precautions to mitigate damage and civilian casualties.

The Palestinian people must accept the existence of Israel if there is to be a lasting peace. In the long run, a two state solution is really the only viable alternative to the status quo and a shot at real peace in the region. There are many details to be worked out among both sides and it will require concessions by both parties, however the continuation of a senseless, decades old conflict is in neither side’s interests. The past 60 years has seen the promise of complete generations lost and squandered by senseless violence. In a day and age in which people are more interconnected than ever before, it is a real human tragedy that senseless conflict that will ultimately achieve very little should continue, and it is feasible to envision a Palestinian and Israeli state, with a neutral Jerusalem creating a viable, peaceful solution. Until such time as both sides are willing to recognize one another’s legitimacy and cease the attacks on Israeli civilians, it is right to support Israel’s proportioned response to protect itself.

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NO – Israel’s response to Hamas is not appropriate

Posted on 29 January 2009 by Jason Ardanowski

Hamas and Israel have, at the time of this writing, stopped shooting at each other. This praiseworthy outcome cannot disguise Israel’s brutal, ham-fisted, and unsustainable conduct of its war in the Gaza Strip. Israel responded to pinpricks with a bulldozer when prudence dictated a calmer policy.

In the context of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 under former prime minister Ariel Sharon – a wise decision – the recent war made no sense. Either a reoccupation of Gaza in the name of mutual safety for both Palestinians and Israelis, or limited military maneuvers intended to interdict Hamas’s crude rocketry, would have a justification in the court of humane international opinion.

Regrettably, Israel chose, out of pique, a third option – an open-ended mission to hurt the residents of the Gaza Strip and make them collectively regret choosing a Hamas government in the summer of 2007. Israel’s conduct, quite simply, is beyond the pale of civilized statecraft.

The facts speak for themselves: Israeli troops have killed in excess of 1,000 non-combatant civilians in Gaza, including 30 children in a United-Nations-run school in a refugee camp and five people dead when Israeli forces shelled Gaza City’s main fruits-and-vegetables market. Norwegian medical aid teams estimate that 40 percent of the people killed thus far are women and children. All this, for the loss of four lives from Hamas rocketry in Israeli territory and less than a dozen deaths among Israeli soldiers.

We at Marquette are part of a Jesuit community; thus, part of our obligation is upholding the longstanding Christian tradition of just war scholarship. Jus in bello, or, translated, just conduct during war, maintains that any military action must weigh the potential security gains against the harm troops will inflict on civilians. Protecting an insignificant proportion of Israeli citizens does not justify cutting off electricity, food, water, and basic sanitation in the Gaza Strip.

As The Economist editorialized on January 3, “The Palestinians it [Israel] is bombing today will be its neighbors forever.” Israel has not wiped out Hamas, whose chief leaders in Gaza are rumored to be hiding under an overstretched hospital, and it cannot hope to depopulate or deport the people of Gaza in large numbers. Its military invasion has perpetuated the sad cycle of charge, counter-charge, exaggerations, and accusations that has seized Israeli-Palestinian relations since 1948. Invading Gaza is straying far from the road to a just and lasting peace in the Holy Land.

It is easy to cheer Israel from afar and much harder to support its policies up close. We must not be deceived by the Palestinians’ corrupt and criminal leadership. Zimbabweans do not deserve to be judged for the sins of Robert Mugabe. In regions lacking our democratic heritage and traditions, it is all too common to choose slimy leaders who turn bad at the polls. Palestinians no more deserve to die at the point of Israeli bayonets than Zimbabweans deserve to die of cholera. Never mind the cause, fashionable as it may be to say Hamas started it. Responsible international relations transcend petty “he said, she said” gamesmanship.

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YES – Marquette should maintain its core curriculum

Posted on 21 November 2008 by Austin Wozniak

The core curriculum at Marquette University is designed to give students exposure to a broad range of fields and create students with interests and knowledge extending beyond their majors. The core curriculum both keeps within Marquette’s Jesuit educational principles and creates well-rounded graduates. It should, without question, be kept.

A well-educated person is more than a technician. A technician is very good at a narrow range of tasks and functions, but lacks understanding, knowledge and abilities outside that area of expertise. If students were permitted to only take classes within their majors, you may very well have a graduate that is extremely good at discussing and writing about political science issues. But imagine that graduate entirely lacking in understanding of the philosophies that contribute to our political system. Imagine them addressing political issues, such as education, without the slightest clue of what a science class entails or requires. The core curriculum is an essential means to creating educated people, because to be truly educated means being more than just an expert on one solitary thing.

The core curriculum helps to address some of the fundamental issues with the United States education system as well. If the U.S. was efficient at creating high school graduates with deep understanding of, and proficiency in, a large base of topics, then perhaps the university could allow students to focus more on their majors. However, unlike many other developed countries, U.S. high school graduates lack this wide knowledge base and basic skill sets. This is a separate issue, and one that must be addressed in the near future if the U.S. is to stay competitive over the long haul, but it is also a reason why universities should have a core curriculum requirement – a U.S. high school level understanding of various subjects is insufficient to be considered well versed, educated and competitive on the world market.

Marquette’s “core of common studies” does a good job exposing students to philosophy, theology and the myriad cultures of the world that one does not see in Milwaukee. However, I think the core curriculum should be expanded to include a general business class for non-business majors. I would argue that having a general business class in which students learned, for example: how to calculate mortgage payments, understand how benefits such as insurance work, understand the value of early retirement savings, learn about the various retirement savings vehicles, learn to generally read a financial statement and balance a checkbook – the simple business related tasks everyone must do – would be extremely valuable. I am routinely surprised by the general lack of understanding regarding simple financial instruments and day to day financial tasks that is displayed by the general public, and I think Marquette would do well to ensure its graduates are not in that boat.

Aside from this addition to the core curriculum, I feel that Marquette’s core is fairly comprehensive and does well to ensure that graduates are more than technicians. In the long run, it is up to the students themselves to stay curious and to, every once and a while, read a book on something new and continue the life – long process of learning. However, if a student is to receive a degree with Marquette’s name on it, it is entirely reasonable for Marquette to demand the student have a base of knowledge extending beyond the student’s major. Having a wider knowledge base gives the graduates more to draw from for problem solving and makes it easier to find common ground with the many various people that will be met each and every day. In short, the core of common studies is essential to providing well rounded graduates and should, if anything, be expanded.

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NO – Marquette should not maintain its core curriculum

Posted on 21 November 2008 by Adam Ryback

Marquette’s core curriculum is based upon the guidelines set by St. Ignatius, founder of the Jesuit Order, for education within the Society of Jesus. According to the University’s website, “In the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius states that, ‘… in the universities of the Society the principal emphasis ought to be placed on (theology)’ (IV.12.1). In turn, says Ignatius, the study of theology … requires knowledge of (1) the humanities … (2) the natural sciences and (3) philosophy.”

The origins of this come from medieval universities where the curriculum involved the trivium (grammar, logic and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (astronomy, geometry, arithmetic and music). These are the basic studies which are a part of the modern core curriculum, used by liberal arts colleges today. Marquette requires that all undergraduates take courses involving these or similar subjects. I am glad that Marquette is attempting to live up to the standards set by St. Ignatius.

The whole point of a core curriculum in Ignatius’ mind was to help students understand theology by providing them with a background in other studies. However, the university is reversing the process. The university provides students with a basic background in theology and similar studies in order to help them prepare for business classes, engineering courses etc… This is not what St. Ignatius had in mind.

Over the course of the twentieth century, our nation’s universities have gradually shifted away from the traditional ideals of a university. In fact, the traditional university has been replaced with a glorified trade school. The university is now a place where students avoid as much of the core curriculum as possible in hopes of avoiding classes like history, philosophy, theology etc. The average university student receives a minimum amount of knowledge in studies which contribute toward critical thinking and rational decision making.

As a business student, I am cognizant of the simple fact that if you enter the university and receive a degree in philosophy or a similar subject, you quickly come to the conclusion that you must enter law school, teach philosophy or drive a bus. Consequently, most people, myself included, decide to major in something like accounting, electrical engineering, marketing etc. As long as employers prefer applicants with degrees in these areas, our current system will not change.

Therefore, the only way to help St. Ignatius recognize Marquette as a Jesuit university once again is to make a stronger core curriculum. Presently, there are a limited number of classes in our core of common studies, in comparison to medieval universities. And those which we do have tend to be watered down. Quite frankly, if undergraduate tuition costs $27,720 for this year alone, I want to receive an education worth $27,720. Why should I pay that much money for a core of common studies that could be replaced by taking AP or IB courses in high school? One of the four pillars of this university is excellence. Why not have it reflect our core curriculum? I do not care whether or not our university ranks well against other colleges in this area. Excellence is not determined by rank. Excellence is determined by doing your best to live up to your God-given abilities.

Now many people may say that this will merely take up more time and consequently more money. After all, a stronger, longer curriculum will merely result in more time at college, which will obviously cost more money. Nobody wants to do that. People would rather be content with mediocrity. At $27,720 a year, I guess I can understand why. Nevertheless, the cost does not justify the fact that this is a Jesuit university. We are meant to live up to the educational ideals of great men, like St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier and even Pere Marquette.

As mentioned before, the style of education in place today is what a trade school used to be. There is nothing wrong with a trade school. Thousands of Americans have benefited from going to trade school. But trade schools are concerned with teaching people what they need to know for their jobs. Universities are meant to go beyond the basics, and to teach people about science, language, rhetoric and arithmetic. I have no problem with degrees involving the arts and science. But I do think that degrees in business and communication should be reserved for trade schools, or maybe even a new, different kind of university or school. Please keep in mind that, as I said before, I am a business student. Nonetheless, I believe that our current educational system should be reformed, especially Jesuit institutions like Marquette.

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Positive: President Bush will have a good legacy

Posted on 06 November 2008 by Jason Ardanowski

In January of this year, I was in Austin, Texas for a wedding. The next day, I went to Johnson City and visited President Lyndon Johnson’s boyhood home and the adjacent museum. I realized that I had reduced Johnson’s presidency down to one good policy and one bad one: his courageous stand on behalf of civil rights for black Americans on one hand, his cowardly and disastrous escalation of the Vietnam War on the other. In the museum, I saw and heard all about Medicare, Head Start, school lunches and other government programs we now take for granted that were instituted under LBJ. I left Johnson City with a more balanced and nuanced perspective on a much-maligned president from Texas.

The presidency of George W. Bush contained many unwise policies and some catastrophic ones – particularly the executive-sanctioned use of torture. Yet the last two years of the Bush presidency have not been as bad as the six preceding. Three policies, in particular, stand out as likely to be positively reviewed by future scholars: Bush’s efforts to reduce the prevalence of malaria and infectious diseases in Africa, his sacking of incompetent foreign policy advisers and his support for faith-based organizations.

Recent results from the Pew Global Research Survey have shown that the only world region where people have a positive approval rating of President Bush (leaving aside outlier countries, such as Albania, in regions generally hostile to Bush) is East Africa, the region centered around Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda. There, President Bush literally handed out hundreds of bed nets during his February 2008 visit to the region. He has also encouraged the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct clinical research in sub-Saharan Africa, providing jobs and modern health care to regions lacking in both. He has also shown increased flexibility in his HIV/AIDS prevention policies, abandoning much of the strident anti-condom rhetoric that prevailed early in his administration. Millions of Africans are leading healthier, more active lives right now thanks to President Bush’s foresight and initiative.

Bush has also brought a modicum of responsibility and pragmatism back to U.S. foreign policy. The State Department, under the direction of Condoleeza Rice, has had the freedom to embrace diplomatic solutions to thorny relations with global bad apples like Syria, North Korea and Venezuela. General David Petraeus has brought sanity to our chaotic occupation of Iraq, and now stands poised to apply his theories, as commander of CENTCOM, to Afghanistan. Robert Gates has so thoroughly repudiated the disastrous tenure of Donald Rumsfeld, while building on the idea of a leaner, more surgical U.S. military, that many pundits speak of his likely retention under an Obama presidency. President Bush may have made most of the mess, but he deserves credit for beginning the long and arduous task of cleaning it up.

Last, I strongly supported President Bush’s creation of the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, and I continue to do so. Religion plays a vital role in American life, not least as a provider of social services. In the economic downturn that is only getting worse, the need is all the greater. I periodically volunteer at St. Benedict’s, and I can reliably report that attendance at the Community Meal has gone up 20 percent over the past year. Federal support for these programs underscores the pivotal role of congregations in the provision of basic needs and encourages people to do good for their neighbors beyond mere weekly worship services.

President Bush is not a monster; he has damaged America’s credibility in many spheres, but he has enhanced it in the three ways mentioned above. The good that he has done ought not to be lost in an angry mob ready to kick him out the back door of the White House. Being a President is no easy task, and eager supporters of Barack Obama ought to keep this in mind over the next four years.

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Negative: President Bush will not have a good legacy

Posted on 06 November 2008 by Adam Ryback

If President Bush is about to leave office with one of the lowest approval ratings in history. There are many reasons for this poor rating.

The first could be the plummeting economy. During a bad economy people often automatically blame the president, seeing his role as more legislative than executive, despite the fact that the president does not actually exercise direct control over the economy. Since Bush has been the president during a period of major economic instability he will likely have a negative reputation, even after he leaves office.

Another element that will tarnish Bush’s historical reputation is, of course, the Iraq War. Immediately after we entered Iraq, many Americans wondered why we were engaged in a nation that had little connection to terrorism. Afghanistan had direct and undisputed links to Al Qaeda; Iraq did not. In the case of the Iraq War, we were never directly attacked by Saddam Hussein and his army prior to invasion. America was the aggressor. Nobody in the Bush administration was able to give a satisfactory explanation of what America gained from the Iraq War, except for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, which turned out to be non-existent. Some will still maintain that, in the long run, the Iraq War will be seen as a critical component of the War on Terror. However, there is no consensus on whether or not the conflict in Iraq has actually contributed to stopping terrorism. If anything, it has contributed to causing more terrorist activity in an already destabilized Iraq.

When Bush ran for his first term, he ran on a platform of morality and Christian values, and people generally consider Bush to be strong on pro-life and pro-family issues. However, his record does not show strong evidence of this. Although he did help illegalize partial-birth abortion, there are a variety of different avenues that one can still take to obtain a partial-birth abortion. He opposed federal funding for embryonic stem cell research, although he did not outlaw embryonic stem cell research. Since pro-family legislation has been left to the states (for now), Bush has had no serious effect on issues concerning homosexuality. Overall, Bush has had no serious legislation in favor of moral issues important to conservatives. So, it is not likely that the Christian conservative base will remember Bush as a great moral leader.

Still, Bush supporters might point out that he has kept our country safe. While it is true that our country has not been attacked since 9/11, we have to ask at what cost? Besides the actual monetary costs that a war requires, what else have we sacrificed? For starters, our freedoms and civil liberties have been compromised through the enactment of The Patriot Act which President Bush advocated. The Patriot Act forces us to surrender our civil liberties guaranteed to us by the Bill of Rights. Many would argue that sacrificing our liberties is essential to national security. When confronted with this argument one might remember the words of John Stuart Mill who said: “A people may want a free government, but…if by momentary discouragement or temporary panic, or a fit of enthusiasm for an individual they can be induced to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions…they are more or less unfit for liberty.” Republicans will often characterize those who don’t support The Patriot Act as liberals, dismissing their arguments as partisan politics. However, Woodrow Wilson, the first modern liberal president was behind the Committee of Public Information, a very similar policy to that of the Patriot Act. Also, Franklin D. Roosevelt had a similar policy in World War II. Many American realize that The Patriot Act is a dire subversion of American freedoms, which is uncharacteristic for a GOP president to support. As a result, Bush’s legacy is likely to be stained in the eyes of both traditional conservatives and liberals for his support of The Patriot Act.

The ultimate question is: how will Bush be remembered? Will he be remembered for getting America into a war its citizens did not support? Causing an economic crisis? Letting down the Christian right? Or, will he be remembered for revoking the civil liberties of Americans? While one cannot blame President Bush for everything negative that has occurred during his two terms, there are many policies he has initiated that Americans detest. With all of this in mind, Bush will not be considered a great president as he has no outstanding qualities or credentials which warrant our favorable attention. Many of the most prominent things he has accomplished are not popular, and while he was not a terrible president, he will never – and should never – be compared to Teddy Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan.

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