IF YOU DON'T LIKE WHAT IS BEING SAID, CHANGE THE CONVERSATION

Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

Return To Madness

In TV on March 27, 2012 at 3:05 pm

BY EMILY VIVIANI

After nearly 18 months, "Mad Men" returned on Sunday night. (Credit: AMC)

Episode 501/502 – “A Little Kiss - In the pilot episode of “Mad Men,” Don Draper told the world that advertising is based on one thing: happiness.  In the opener to Season 5, which aired on AMC Sunday night, Don is caught drinking his own Kool-Aid.

Up until this point in the series, the creative genius that is Don has always derived worth from his ability to manipulate the consumer, with his glossy good looks and wounded orphan soul. In Season 5, the mystery man we know and love is on a honeymoon.

In the first half of the premiere, we’re brought up to speed on Don’s new life. Roughly eight months have passed in the “Mad Men” world (since Season 4 closed 17 months ago). In pure Roger Sterling fashion, Don is now married to his former secretary, 25-year-old smoky-eyed French(-Canadian) sex kitten, Megan. He swapped his poorly lit, introspective cave in Greenwich Village for a glass-walled, white-carpeted shag pad on what appears to be Manhattan’s Upper East Side. We also learn that Megan is now a junior copywriter at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, where her job is mainly to open her blouse for Don and write coupons for beans.

At work, Peggy is the only character wary of Don’s laissez-faire attitude and goofy smile. In a scene where she pitches a daring, artful bean ballet (“The Art of Supper”) to Heinz, she is stunned when Don fails to affirm the genius of the pitch when the client expresses doubt. Without fight or fanfare, Don recoils the idea and assures the client that the creative team will get it right next time. “I don’t recognize that man,” Peggy said.

At this point in the episode, Don’s character teeters between nauseating and boring, so thank god Megan, with all her “I Dream of Jeannie” naïveté, decides to steal his Rolodex and plan a 40th birthday surprise party. The party, which Peggy gently advises against, serves as the centerpiece for the episode, and thankfully for us showcases just how twisted the happy couple’s blissful existence is bound to become.

As Jon Hamm said in a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Season 5 in several ways feels like Season 1, with all its aesthetic splendor and ominous stability. But if Season 1 was about the past, with Don’s unforgettable deconstruction of nostalgia for Kodak in the season closer (“The Wheel”), it feels very much like Season 5 will focus on the future. Toward the conclusion of Season 4, there was a subtle shift toward new and different, a push back to Don’s expertise, old and romantic. Perhaps we see this most clearly in the finale when Don pushes nostalgia on a skeptic American Cancer Society. Bobby put it bluntly in his argument for visiting Tomorrowland. “I don’t want to ride an elephant,” he tells his father. “I want to fly a jet!”

Don, who has always understood the art of selling the American dream, is unsure of how to handle new and different, but recognizes it in young Megan. She is foreign, tolerant, kind and confident in her vulnerability. She doesn’t smirk – she smiles. This is all new and different, and Don, like a client in his boardroom, falls under the spell of her “glittering allure.” At Don’s surprise party in Sunday’s premiere, we get to see just how new and different Megan is, with her African-American, homosexual, tea-leaf smoking friends and a sexy-time dance to a coquettish French pop song, a birthday gift for Don. This is all a bit much for him. Lane later noted that it looked as if Don’s soul had left his body.

The line brought me back to a conversation Don had with Peggy at the close of Season 3. “There are people out there who buy things,” he said. “People like you and me. And something happened, something terrible. And the way that they saw themselves is gone. And nobody understands that. But you do.” Don most likely recognized sitting center stage, watching Megan dance for him, how far he was from Dick Whitman’s polite modesty and Betty’s green bean casserole. As he said last season: “We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.”

While Don maintains face at the party, he quietly scolds Megan afterward for throwing away money on embarrassing him. She is crushed, I think. One of the most compelling aspects of the dynamic between Don and Megan is that it’s unclear at this point how much she understands the role she is playing for him, and how much she is in fact playing. We learn in party conversation that Megan herself is a wonderful actress and always got the best tips as a waitress by pouring on her accent. How much of their marriage is an extension of that?

Later in the episode, she brilliantly realigns the equilibrium of their relationship – Don consumer, Megan product – by stripping down and crawling around the apartment, “cleaning up.” She tells Don he can only watch, cause he doesn’t get to have this – meaning her – since he doesn’t like presents, he doesn’t like nice things, and he’s old. In the end, surprise, surprise, he gets to have that.

Running alongside the Don and Megan “Loveboat,” there are several other plot lines introduced to the mix, all of which travel along the “out with the old, in with the new” current that the season seems to be cruising along. Joan, who recently gave birth to Roger’s baby, is anxious to get back to the office. Roger is struggling to make his job look easy, in an environment where actual work and ugly secretaries are replacing whiskey and charm. Pete moved to the suburbs and finally wore an outfit that clashed with Trudy’s (the plaid sport coat-Pucci dress disaster at Megan’s party), no doubt a preppy foreboding of trouble in paradise. At the office, Pete is also eager to gain credit for the accounts he has been steadily bringing in and is frustrated when Roger undermines his attempt to commandeer a larger office (and all that implies) by paying off a suddenly-skinny Harry Crane. (“Why do you carry so much cash?!”)

Overall, the season 5 premiere was freshly packaged, brightly colored and perfectly mod. There were some sort of hilarious, haphazard scenes: Pete’s nosebleed, Don’s gift from his new secretary (a plant) and Harry in that jacket. But Matthew Weiner weighted the episode at beginning and end with poignant vignettes of the civil rights movement, and how SCDP involved itself quite unintentionally by poking fun at Young & Rubicam with a phony want ad in the New York Times. It’s true that things still appear to be all zoobie zoobie zoo at SCDP, but it’s 1966, times are changing, and Roger said it best: “The only thing worse than not getting what you want, is someone else getting it.”

Blast From the Past: The Final Column

In Archives on March 27, 2012 at 3:04 pm

BY RYAN BYRNES 

Sailing the Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico in March of 2008.

The following column appeared in the March 27, 2008 issue of  The Collegian, the University of Richmond student newspaper. It was the last of 24 columns I wrote for the paper and one of my favorites.

As the great modern poet Shawn Carter once said, “They never really miss you til you dead or you gone, so on that note, I’m leaving after this song.” And since I never was much of a singer, I suppose this final column will have to do.

During the past 12 months, I’ve said a lot – at moments, probably too much. In these uncertain political and economic times, I’ve left the crucial commentary to the experts, opting to focus instead on the more immediate concerns of Richmond students. I’ve questioned the need for Greek life and the absence of Spider Spirit; reflected on Virginia Tech and 9/11; rallied to protect lodge parties and The Cellar; attempted to solve the mysteries of Bid Day and Ring Dance; and searched for life lessons in Soulja Boy, Third Eye Blind and the all-powerful chalk.

Jerry Garcia said it best – what a long, strange trip it’s been. Then again, maybe it hasn’t been that long. It seems like just last week that I was sitting at The Cellar as a junior, listening to some older fraternity brothers lament about having to leave college and thanking God I still had a whole year left to figure it all out. But a year goes by pretty fast these days, and here I am – 12 months and 24 columns later, a wandering soul still left with more questions than answers.

Maybe that is how it should be. Maybe college isn’t here to give you all the answers. Instead, maybe it prepares you to better handle the questions your future will throw at you. My future seems to be full of questions right now. I have no idea where I’ll be in six months or a year. In some ways, that scares me. In other ways, it’s the most liberating feeling I have ever known.

Sometimes a random encounter is all one needs to put life in perspective. I had one of those encounters two weeks ago when I met a man named Ben on the golden beaches of Jalisco. Listening to the 24-year-old Ben discuss his post-college experiences helped me feel a little more content with my own future. Though he said he loves his current job, he admitted it wasn’t one he envisioned for himself last year, or even last month, when he was still working on the set of “E.R.”

Ben is now a cameraman for “Girls Gone Wild,” scouring beaches by day and clubs by night in search of curvy broads and blondes willing to sacrifice their decency for a few seconds of fame on late-night infomercials and mail order masterpieces. Ben is a microcosm of Generation Y, just another youth raised in the Internet era doing what he needs to do to get by. And as he pointed out, his work is far from easy. “People like to think that this job is instant ass, man,” he told me. “But dude, this is hard work. We’re, like, on a guerrilla mission here.”

On a strange level, I developed a bit of a man-crush on Ben during my time in Mexico. Then again, during a week where I was more interested in laying in the sun with my 11 male comrades than I was chasing around Penn State sorority girls, perhaps it was only appropriate that I developed this temporary fascination with another dude. But my crush wasn’t on his wavy brown hair or on a persona that was distinctly Californian. It was on Ben’s ability to follow the path that fate seemed to pave for him. My friends and I told him that we would be graduating in May and that many of us did not have definitive plans for where our professional lives would take us, but Ben proposed that we all take different roads during our respective quests to achieve the American Dream and said that, at least momentarily, he might have already recognized his. “I’ve always loved film, and I’ve always loved women,” he said. “For now, this just seems like the perfect place for me.”

That’s it! Ben had found the perfect place! And, more importantly, he hadn’t even planned it! He didn’t plan to lose his job at “E.R.” because a bunch of writers he didn’t even know decided to go on strike. He didn’t plan to log onto Craigslist and find an opportunity to work for this infamous cinematic franchise. He certainly didn’t plan on the girls of Puerto Vallarta being so conservative on-screen. Just days earlier, he had hours of Cancun footage featuring a group of girls fooling around in a bathtub.

Filming drunk college girls may or may not be what you would call “the perfect place,” but that is far from the point. Ben’s story is one that each of us can learn from. There is a whole world out there, and for the most part, we have no control over what goes on in it. The best you can do is to be prepared to meet new people, to travel to new places, to take risks and challenge yourself. In life, you’re going to have a lot of weird jobs and strange experiences, but through it all, you should never forget to be yourself.

During my week in Mexico, I read a book called Praying For Sheetrock.” Written by Melissa Faye Green, the book is an inspiring true story about struggle and courage. It’s nearly 350 pages long, but its most important lesson is right in the preface. Green writes:

“Historians may look back upon a season when a thousand lives moved in unison; but in the beginning there are really only individuals, acting in isolation and uncertainty, out of necessity or idealism, unaware they are living through an epoch.”

At Richmond, social classification is as endemic as the algae on Westhampton Lake. In many ways, we’ve all been arbitrarily grouped since the day we arrived on campus. But as we complete our final semester, we all share one common characteristic: we will be forgotten.

The group of students graduating on May 11 will not be remembered as the class that asked “What moves us?” We won’t be remembered for being the last class to taste kegs on campus, or for paying a semi-reasonable $32,000 tuition. Instead, we – much like our flag hanging in The Pier – will be removed and forgotten. The underclassmen might cry at senior wills or stick around to cheer us on at graduation, but by the time August rolls around, they won’t really miss us – they’ll still have some college left to enjoy. The professors will have a new semester to focus on, and the administration will have a whole new set of issues to handle.

But when we walk out of this place six weeks from Sunday, we will have more than a liberal arts education with us. We’ll have four years worth of highs and lows, friends and foes, relationships and learning experiences, all of which have taught us something about who we are and who we want to be. No matter what group we happened to be associated with during our years here, we’ve all had a college experience that is unique to ourselves. We’ve acted out of our own isolation and uncertainty, out of our own necessity and idealism. We’ve made our own choices and mistakes. We were all given an amazing opportunity. Did we make the most of it? Answer that for yourself.

Just like Ben, there’s a path out there for each of us, though we probably don’t know exactly where it will lead. Hunter S. Thompson said, in life, to buy the ticket and take the ride. While for most of us it was our parents who graciously bought us what is now considered a discounted ticket to Richmond, I hope you have all had as much fun riding along as I have.

So here’s to wishing that the ride continues for a long, long time. And if your path happens to cross with mine at some indiscernible point in the future, let’s stop at the local dive bar and grab a beer. After all, I’ll just be being me – whoever that is.

The Good, The Bad, and The Tebow

In NFL on March 27, 2012 at 2:57 pm

BY MIKEY TWO-TIMES

And on the Eighth Day, God made Tim Tebow a New York Jet. (Credit: AP)

If you can’t beat them, trade for them.

That’s the mentality of the New York Jets front office and coaching staff these days. On Thursday, the New York Jets acquired, then un-acquired, and finally re-acquired the most-hyped back-up quarterback in the history of the NFL. Tim Tebow may have been one of the greatest college quarterbacks of all-time, but critics have always questioned whether or not his talent translates to the professional level. Never in the short 25 years that I have been on this earth has a trade including a back-up quarterback and a mid-round draft pick gotten so much attention. The Jets even held a press conference yesterday to introduce their new backup acquisition. A press conference for a backup quarterback? Yes, you heard it correctly.

So let’s forget the off-the-field publicity that this trade will garner over the next few weeks and instead focus on the football aspects of the transaction. In order to break down the trade fairly, one must look at both its positives and negatives. We will start with the bad news first, because Tebow would want it that way.

The Negatives

1. Mark Sanchez’s Confidence Issues

New York is a tough place to be a professional athlete – no one is disputing that. With every win, you can be praised like a god. With every loss, you can feel like the most hated person on the planet – or at least the tri-state area. Heck, at one point New Yorkers were calling for Eli’s head. Now the man is an elite quarterback with two Super Bowl rings.

Mark Sanchez has felt the highs and lows of New York City’s media and fans. Sanchez’s confidence has been in question since his rookie year, and having the fan-favorite Tebow breathing down his neck will do nothing but exacerbate that problem. That’s the reason why Mark Brunell has been the backup for the past two seasons – to let Sanchez know that no matter how much he struggles, he will still be the starting quarterback.

Now, the Jets bring in a young quarterback with his own fan-base waiting (eager?) for Sanchez to make mistakes. Sanchez, who notably has helped lead to Jets to two AFC title games in three seasons, cannot be too pleased with the team’s decision to add Tebow. What star likes to see billboards of his understudy up around Manhattan? Bringing in Tebow hopefully will make Sanchez rise to the occasion and prove his doubters wrong. But if he doesn’t, Tebow will be waiting.

2. Tebow’s Quarterback Play

A backup quarterback should be able to make the easy throws, seven-yard slants and five-yard button hooks to name a few. No throw is easy for Tebow. A quarterback should be able to throw the football consistently enough to complete passes of short distances. Tebow cannot. A quarterback should be able to look off-defenders and complete passes to his second option. Tebow does not do that well. These are just basic quarterback skills that one should have. In this respect, I think Tebow is currently incapable. It does not mean that he will be unable to develop these skills in the future, but at the moment, his throwing skills are grim.

Just take a look at Tebow’s statistics from last season. He completed 46.5 percent of his passes. Sanchez, who has been maligned for his lack of accuracy, completed 10 percent more of his passes than Tebow last year. Most believe a quarterback shows his worth inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, where passing accuracy is of the utmost importance. Tebow completed a mere 43.3 percent of his passes in the red zone last season, with a quarterback rating of 65.4. These are not the statistics you expect from a quarterback in the NFL. Yet, with Tebow, many continue to keep the faith.

The Positives

1. Tebow is Better Than Brunell

Ignoring the effect of Tebow on Sanchez’s psyche, it is important to realize that he is an upgrade for the Jets as backup quarterback. If Sanchez had gone down last year with an injury, it would have been up to the 41-year-old veteran to lead Gang Green to victory. Woof. Brunell may have been a Pro-Bowl quarterback years ago, but those days are far behind him. A backup quarterback is supposed to be ready if the starter gets injured to take over the team with the ability to win the game. Even with Tebow’s questionable accuracy, he is capable of winning football games. Just ask the Pittsburgh Steelers.

2. The Wildcat is Back

For three seasons, the Jets ran a successful wildcat package with Brad Smith, a former quarterback at Missouri. Since Smith left the team last off-season, the Jets have lacked a great wildcat option. When the Jet offense sputtered last season, head coach Rex Ryan told (former) offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to insert more wildcat plays into the  game plan.

Tony Sparano, the man who unleashed the wildcat on the league while in Miami in 2008, is the new offensive coordinator. He is drooling over Tebow. I am not a football genius, but I have to believe that Ryan and Sparano are better talent evaluators than us fans. Tebow is the ideal man for this type of game plan. Despite his limitations as a thrower, he is undoubtedly an improvement in the wildcat from Smith or Jeremy Kerley. If you do not have the offensive weapons necessary to out-score your opponents, it is best to use trickery. I believe the Jets will do just that with Tebow.

Honestly, I cannot decide whether this trade is a good deal or a bad deal. Tebow obviously has not yet suited up for the Jets and will not until early September. Until then, let’s hold-off on the bashing of the Jets’ front office for making this trade. This may turn out to be one of the worst deals in recent memory, but it could also be one of the best. Time will tell who was right and who was wrong, but until that day comes, I am going to kneel down – on one knee – and pray this was a genius move by the New York Jets organization.

 

 

For Tiger, A Mission Complete

In Golf on March 26, 2012 at 6:26 am

THE MIDNIGHT MAN

Tiger is back, and the Midnight Man could not be more excited about it. (Credit: Getty Images)

There are two simple truths about American society. First, if you are guilty in the eyes of the media, you will be found guilty in the court of public opinion. Second, the people love a comeback.

Upon the release of a story alleging that Tiger Woods had numerous extramarital affairs, he immediately was found guilty by the American public and has been continually scrutinized ever since. But after almost two-and-a-half-years of personal reflection and growth, as well as overcoming numerous physical battles, Woods’ comeback came full circle yesterday with a victory at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.

When the National Enquirer published a story alleging Woods’ extramarital affair with nightclub manager Rachel Uchitel on Nov. 25, 2009, no one could have imagined the fallout that would ensure. Many, like me, dismissed the story as just another attempt by the Enquirer to boost sales by making an outrageous claim against the world’s most famous athlete. Yet, just two days later, Woods was involved in an early-morning car accident that the media linked to his marital troubles. In the following weeks, more than a dozen women came forward admitting to having an affair with him.

Woods finally admitted to his infidelity on Dec. 11, 2009, and subsequently took an indefinite break from golf. This news shocked the world and changed his image forever. Those who once loved him began to hate him. Those who already despised him seemed validated in their hatred. And then the skeptics began to ask questions. They wondered how such an extremely private person with a clean-cut image could have done this to his family. More importantly, they asked whether Woods would ever be the same on the golf course.

I cannot give you an answer to the first question – Woods’ alleged infidelities lay with him and him only. But for the past two years, the answer to the latter question has been a resounding no. Woods lost his title as the world’s most marketable man, as Accenture, AT&T, Gatorade, General Motors, Tag Heuer and Gillette dropped him as their spokesman. His wife, Elin, divorced him. He changed swing coaches, from Hank Haney to the young Sean Foley. He fired his long-time caddie, Australian Steve Williams. And on the course, Woods simply couldn’t win. Though there were stretches of play where he looked like the Tiger of old, particularly at the 2010 and 2011 Masters, Woods was not able to do what had seemingly become second-nature to him: win.

But during the past few months, things slowly started to change. At the invite-only Chevron World Challenge, Woods broke through and ended his winless streak. He continued his strong play at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, finishing third in a strong field containing many of the world’s best players. Back in the United States a few weeks later, Woods performed well at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. At the Honda Classic, behind his best final round ever, Woods finished second to Rory McIlroy. It only seemed a matter of time before he once again claimed victory in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

Then came the WGC-Cadillac Championship two weeks ago. Entering the fourth round tied for fourth place, analysts and fans expected Woods to make a run up the leader board. But after just 12 holes of mediocre play, he withdrew due to a strained left Achilles tendon. Many wondered whether Tiger had experienced another devastating setback on his long road to recovery.

On Sunday, Woods proved those people wrong, when he completed his comeback with a victory at “The King’s (Arnold Palmer)” tournament.

It is too early to say what Woods’ win really means. On a personal level, I am sure Tiger has to be extremely happy and proud. For a man whose only goal is to win each and every tournament he plays in, that goal has been accomplished. But on a larger scale, Woods’ win could mean two things.

First, the Tiger that we all know and love has finally returned. Though this proclamation may be premature, if you were watching his play this weekend, you realize that the Tiger today is not the Tiger of even three months ago, much less the past two years. He finally has control of his new swing and he seems to have rediscovered his putting stroke. The other players should be concerned – if Tiger has returned to form, expect big things from him this year.

Second, his victory could allow the public to finally forget his past indiscretions and embrace his amazing comeback. For the past two years, the tour, the sport and its fans have severely missed Woods. While Phil and Co. have done a remarkable job of keeping golf relevant, the sport only truly thrives when Tiger plays well. I think Woods’ victory finally will allow the American public to look past his mistakes, move forward and support the 14-time major champion. Like I stated above, America loves a comeback story.

Here’s to hoping America loves and roots for Tiger once again.  I surely am ready to.

The Keys To the Future of the Seton Hall Law SBA

In SHU Law Politics on March 26, 2012 at 6:10 am

THE YI! NEWS EDITORIAL BOARD

Today is a time of great political, economic and social unrest in our nation. One need not look past their newspaper’s front-page nor their smartphone’s homepage to recognize the significant and complicated issues that confront us everyday and perplex us every second.

Our law school community is hardly impervious to the forces affecting our world and society at large. In these unstable times, it is of crucial importance that we – not only as a body of law school students, but as future leaders of our communities and our state – partake in the utmost in our democratic process to ensure that our elected representatives reflect our perspectives and are prepared to voice our concerns.

It is with these very important values in mind that we, the recently-formed but hardly recently-opinionated editorial board of Yi! News, officially endorse the following individuals to carry on the great tradition of students at the Seton Hall University School of Law.

First, we endorse Gezim Bajrami as the next president of the Student Bar Association. We believe that Gezim, also known as “Zimmy,” will most embody the spirit of students and the mission of his peers as he leads the school into its future. In recent years, the student body has failed to reach an optimal connection with its respective presidents, and the school community as a whole has suffered as a result. This year’s other candidates represent more of the same. We believe Zimmy, with his unique history and experience as a person of the people, will return the position of SBA President to one that truly is a representative of our diverse student body.

To join Zimmy in this most important of endeavors, we endorse Lauren Keith as the next vice president of the SBA. With a platform specifically focused on improving the mentor program and repairing the lines of communication between the SBA and the students, Keith represents the ideal balance of experience and enthusiasm as our school elects the individual most responsible for maintaining the crucial relationship between students and their representatives.

“I truly believe in the promise of the Seton Hall Law School community,” said Keith in a statement submitted to Yi! News on Sunday morning. “I have felt at home ever since walking through that then-easier -to-push revolving door at orientation. I think – despite what some nay-sayers may put forth – the SBA as a whole has been beyond responsive and effective as a voice of the students.”

Keith, who has served as a committee chair during her time on the SBA, said she seeks to do what is necessary to ensure that our student body is one where every person is informed and also feels free to voice their opinion.

Our third but equally important endorsement is for Jennifer Vasquez as the next treasurer of the SBA. As our school reacts to varying financial freedoms and restraints, it is imperative that we elect a representative who is both vigilant and vivacious when it comes to exercising the SBA budget. We believe this is a role that Vasquez is well-suited for.

“My goal will be to responsibly and transparently disburse SBA funds not only for traditional events, but to also encourage the realistic incorporation of new traditions,” said Vasquez is a statement to Yi! News. “My vision is to have an SBA and a treasurer that are true reflections of our amazing school, its diversity and its promising future.”

Polls are open for Seton Hall Law students beginning today. Please use your vote wisely.

Obamacare: A Primer

In Politics on March 26, 2012 at 5:13 am

BY BRIAN RUDDOCK

The Supreme Court will begin to hear three days of oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act on Monday morning. (Credit: Getty Images)

Today, the Supreme Court will begin oral arguments over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, colloquially known as “Obamacare.” The Act was signed into law in 2010; shortly thereafter its constitutionality was challenged by 26 state attorneys general as well as a number of independent organizations. My colleague Ryan will shortly provide Yi! News readers with a summary of the act’s legal issues. I will focus on the legislation’s likely policy and political effects. In short, I believe it will be an unmitigated disaster in both realms.

First, the policy. The Affordable Care Act was Washington’s answer to two very real but misrepresented problems: lack of access to health insurance, and rising medical costs. Democrats claimed that more than 46 million Americans didn’t have health insurance, but this was misleading. When adjusting for non-citizens and people who could afford to buy insurance but choose not to, the number is closer to 8 million. The Act also seeks to curtail ever-rising health care costs, which have increased from $256 million in 1980 to $2.6 trillion in 2010. This, of course, overlooks that much of rising health care costs have been the result of longer lifespans and improved life-saving medicines and technologies. It also ignores the fact that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, even optimistic scenarios show negligible savings in long-term health care costs.

To combat these problems, the Act creates a wildly complicated scheme that took more than 2,500 pages to write (the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner “summarizes” it here in a 70 page whitepaper). The key provisions are as follows. First, it creates a series of state-run but federally-subsidized insurance exchanges. These exchanges technically are the responsibility of the states, but talk about faux federalism: if the states do not live up to the federal government’s rigorous requirements, they lose funding for Medicare. Much of this funding, of course, is made necessary because of the Affordable Care Act. Many also believe these exchanges are a precursor to a single-payer (or 100 percent) government-run system.

Second, it requires all citizens to either purchase insurance through their employer or through an exchange. Citizens not complying are subject to fines. Companies with 50 or more employees will be fined for not providing insurance deemed “adequate” by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These provisions will, respectively, put every citizen at the mercy of the federal government and discourage small businesses from hiring more employees. Finally, the Act requires all hospitals to participate in an on-going cost-benefit analysis by the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). IPAB then instructs doctors which procedures and medications they can and can’t use. Such rationing is very real: similar programs in Britain and Canada led to increased wait times and lower cancer survival rates.

Politically, the Affordable Care Act is a step in the absolute wrong direction. America has thrived as a constitutional republic with a government that largely respected concrete limits on its power. The idea wasn’t to come up with a system that would always come up with the best outcome – that would be impossible. Rather, the Founders hoped to create a government that could not trample the liberty of its citizens. Government for the citizens – not the other way around.

The Affordable Care Act stands in stark contrast to this sentiment. Congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama believe that it is within their authority to, among other things, compel individuals to purchase a product that they will have themselves largely designed. They also find it appropriate to regulate the relationship between doctor and patient, something which has hitherto been private.

Setting and respecting areas of life in which the government cannot interfere is vital. It prevents unsavory politicians – or those who we seriously disagree with – from making laws that adversely affect our fundamental rights. This Act, if it and its major provisions are upheld by the Supreme Court, will be a major step in doing away with limited government as we know it.

Dick Durbin, American Hero

In Politics on March 23, 2012 at 9:28 pm

BY BRIAN RUDDOCK

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has requested that a Senate subcommittee look into the NFL's recent "bounty" scandal. (Credit: UPI/Kevin Dietsch)

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recently announced that the Senate Judiciary subcommittee, on which he sits, will conduct hearings on “bounty” programs in sports. The hearing will examine the New Orleans Saints specifically and similar pay-for-pain initiatives in collegiate and professional sports generally.

The Senator was likely outraged – as was much of the public – upon hearing of the Gregg Williams/Sean Payton joint. While many noted the hypocrisy of a league condemning violence while also profiting off of what is an inherently violent sport, the planned and premeditated nature of the infliction of injuries surely represented a low moment for the franchise and for the NFL as a whole. Commissioner Roger Goodell’s heavy-handed punishments (a litany of extended suspensions, fines and draft penalties) for the involved parties was thus appropriate. Payton and Williams both issued public apologies. This should have been the end of it.

Durbin’s interference, like that of Congress’ in baseball’s steroid scandal of 2007,  is a waste of the government’s time and the taxpayers’ money. Far more disturbing is the fact that the citizenry actually thinks this is something Congress should have the authority to do.

As appalling as these hearings are, they are not surprising. Modern politicians do not recognize any sphere in which the government may not interfere, nor do they respect any of the three fundamental rights guaranteed by our constitution. Life? The president may now legally assassinate a U.S. citizen abroad with nary a warrant or trial. Liberty? The federal criminal code is 27,000 pages of stuff you can’t do. Pursuit of happiness? (Maybe a bit vague of a concept, so we’ll go with TJ’s “property” instead.) Kelo v. City of New London allows the government to take your land so long as it serves the “public interest.” Meanwhile, new airport scanners make the most intimate of your property visible to TSA bureaucrats.

Durbin will now seek to prevent one grown man from explicitly telling another grown man to do what said grown man was going to do anyways. (God forbid someone in the NFL gets hurt.) Maybe Durbin is running interference here, hoping that the press distracts voters from the opening arguments over President Barack Obama’s  health care bill, the constitutionality of which will be considered by the Supreme Court beginning on Monday. But it’s more likely that Durbin genuinely thinks he’s doing the right thing.

Alert the press: “protecting Aaron Rodgers in the pocket” has apparently been added to the enumerated powers.

Within Law School Industry, The Quest For Clarity Continues

In Law on March 23, 2012 at 2:52 pm

BY RYAN BYRNES

From student gripes on Internet forums to official orders from judicial benches, the calls for greater transparency regarding post-law school employment data continue to grow louder. And, slowly but surely, law schools themselves have begun to oblige.

As reports of smaller hiring classes and lower average salaries circulate the industry, this generation of law school graduates appears that it will actually have one characteristic that will positively impact the law school application process in the future. A perfect storm of an epic recession, an already saturated legal job market and just enough disappointed graduates set on blaming the system instead of themselves has left in its wake a new era of expectations, one where clarity is king and anything short of that is regarded as potentially deceptive.

One example of the new era is the organization Law School Transparency, a non-profit company started by a pair of recent graduates of Vanderbilt University Law School. What started in the fall of 2010 as a mission to gather more useful employment data from ABA-approved law schools has evolved into a system of reports that specifically details what schools are sharing what information on their websites about their graduates’ employment status. In January, LST published an index based on 19 categories of employment-related data, including specifics on full-time vs. part-time employment and salary data that reflects graduated classes in the aggregate.

In the March issue of the National Jurist, the magazine translated the LST index into a grading system and provided a list ranking the transparency of 197 law school websites. Seton Hall University School of Law received an A, ranking it among the top 15 schools listed. The grading was even more impressive when compared to those assigned to the law schools of Seton Hall’s regional rivals (though St. John’s and Temple each received an A+). Villanova received a B-, New York University got a C- and New York Law School and Pace each received a D+. More glaringly, Brooklyn, Cardozo, Columbia, Fordham, Hofstra and both Rutgers campuses received failing grades.

That last group is hardly alone – the National Jurist grading system was harsher than the curve in any law school course. Forty-one percent of schools on the list were assigned failing grades, with an additional 15 percent getting a D. The fact that such a staggering number of schools received such low grades speaks less to the flaws of any one particular institution and more to the glaring gap between what the purveyors of transparency see as ideal and what schools have accepted as commonplace. But some school officials just don’t see why that gap has grown so wide.

“There’s no reason law schools can’t be posting the information they’ve always been gathering on their website,” Beth Kransberger, associate dean for student affairs at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, told the National Jurist.  “You have to feel good enough about the integrity of your law school and the legal education you’re providing [so] that there’s no reason to shy away from transparency.”

The grades assigned by National Jurist don’t carry anywhere near as much weight as more traditional law school rankings, such as the annual list released by U.S. News and World Report last week. But the coverage is representative of the increased scrutiny that law schools have found themselves under as recent graduates find that their early careers (or lack thereof) are not what they expected them to be. Though signs of an economic downturn were evident as early as late 2007, many students claim their decision to enter their respective law schools were a result of misleading or deceptive data about what careers they could expect after graduating. At least 14 law schools have or are facing lawsuits from former students, with claims centering around this central gripe.

The first of those suits, filed in August by a group of recent graduates of New York Law School, was dismissed on Wednesday by the New York Supreme Court for New York County. The court’s holding was significant, noting that “the issues posed by this case exemplify the adage that not every ailment afflicting society may be redressed by a lawsuit.” (The dismissal was essentially based on three grounds: that the school’s marketing materials were not misleading to a reasonable consumer acting reasonably; that the plaintiffs could not have reasonably relied on the school’s alleged misrepresentations, given ample information available from other sources; and that the plaintiffs’ theory of damages that was too speculative.) But in addition to the legal aspect of the dismissal, the case was notable for the op-ed-like conclusion to the court’s decision, which seems to be a call for correction from all within the legal world.

“If lawsuits such as this have done nothing else, they have served to focus the attention of all constituents on this current problem facing the legal profession,” wrote Judge Melvin L. Schweitzer. “All must take a long, hard look at the current situation with the utmost seriousness of purpose.

“To the extent law schools are turning out too many graduates for the positions available, market forces will begin to correct themselves,” he wrote (a trend that already appears to be occurring). “But that does not itself excuse our collective responsibility to those who have been unfortunate enough to have been caught in the midst of the maelstrom. To them we owe our best efforts to get them situated.”

Unlike this decision, a similar suit brought against Thomas Jefferson School of Law survived a motion to dismiss in a California court. But in a way, the New York Law School decision presents of blueprint of how the issue is likely to be resolved. On one hand, courts are unlikely to bail out students for failing to read the writing that was on the wall before or during their law school experience. However, it also appears that courts hope to bring about some change by wagging their fingers at schools themselves, even if their pats on the backs on plaintiffs are not as encouraging.

The judiciary does not appear to be alone in bringing the pressure. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IO) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have written to the ABA about the issue, and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has called for the Department of Education to investigate law schools.

But before the legislature can even begin to intervene, law schools have already showed signs of change. Many schools quickly responded to LST’s index when it was published this winter, according to the National Jurist (noting the University of Colorado School of Law as one school that quickly updated its site to include detailed graphs and charts).

As a Seton Hall Law enrollment official said last month, the law school cycle is going to reward the schools that play by the rules. Even before the courts and Congress can intervene, it appears an increasing number of schools are beginning to realize that just might be the case.

Reality Strikes At the Heart

In Soccer on March 22, 2012 at 6:10 pm

BY THE MIDNIGHT MAN

Soccer sensation Fabrice Muamba is recovering after entering cardiac arrest during a match on Saturday. (Credit: BPM Media)

Every morning when I wake, there are three websites I routinely check: ESPN, CNN and the Drudge Report.  Yet when I woke this past Sunday morning, my browsing session ended abruptly after coming across a disturbing headline:  Fabrice Muamba, the promising young Bolton and English holding midfielder, had collapsed during his team’s FA Cup match versus Tottenham.

Normally I gloss over such heartbreaking articles, spending no more than a few minutes digesting the meaning of the event. But for no particular reason, Muamba’s tragic collapse resonated with me.  Maybe it is the shock of a perfectly fit 23-year-old going into cardiac arrest. Maybe it is the realization that for everyone, each breath could be your last. Or maybe it is the fact that to me, people who have overcome so many obstacles, like Muamba, deserve better. But for whatever reason, Muamba’s collapse resonated with me.

Growing up in war-torn Zaire, he emigrated from his country to England in 1999. After joining Arsenal Football Club’s famed Youth Academy in 2002, he rose to the professional ranks by 2005. Following a successful loan spell at Birmingham City in 2006, Muamba secured a permanent deal in 2007. After Birmingham was relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2007 season, he transferred to his current team, the Bolton Wanderers, where he has been a keg cog in the center of midfield since 2008. Combining a mix of speed and superb tackling ability, Muamba’s energetic style of play allowed him to be recognized as one of England’s top young players. To this date, he has more than 33 appearances for the England U-21 side and likely was going to take part in the upcoming 2012 Olympic Games in London.

But his off-the-field successes are more important than his on-the-field accomplishments. Like many immigrants, Muamba was unable to speak English upon his arrival in East London. Yet Muamba overcame the language barrier to achieve academic excellence in his teen years. He became a father to a son three years ago, and this Valentine’s Day became engaged to the child’s mother. Muamba had his whole life ahead of him and yet, during the 41st minute of Saturday’s match, it was all almost unfairly taken away.

Watching a clip of the incident on YouTube, one does not actually see Muamba fall as he went into cardiac arrest.  Rather, you see the distraught faces of everyone at White Hart Lane, including his fellow players, many of whom walked off the pitch with tears in their eyes. But thankfully, due to the amazing work of the Bolton and Tottenham medical staff as well as the staff at London’s Chest Hospital, Muamba’s heart miraculously restarted. He is currently off the ventilator, breathing on his own and is beginning to speak softly and show signs of movement in his limbs.

Now, I need to be frank.  The goal of this article isn’t to preach to its readers that you need to drastically change your life to become a healthier person who eats right and exercises frequently. While recommended by physicians everywhere, that lifestyle is not for everyone. And as Muamba’s collapse demonstrates, even the fittest athletes are vulnerable to sudden heart attacks.

Rather, my hope is that this brief attempt at telling Fabrice Muamba’s story allows you to take a moment out of your day and put your life into perspective. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s tragedies like Muamba’s that make such a statement significant.

So I ask that you each ask yourself what’s important, who’s important and what you want or need to accomplish that you haven’t already.  Whether it’s forgiving someone, going skydiving, or conquering D’Jais Happy Hour, do what you feel is right and don’t look back.  You only get one shot in this world, and like Fabrice Muamba already has, you better make it count.

And Fabrice, in the words of the late Jim Valvano, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.” The world, your son, and your fiancée need you. God Bless and we pray for a speedy and healthy recovery.

The Top 5 Sweet 16 Games

In NCAA Hoops on March 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

BY THE MIDNIGHT MAN

Indiana shocked Kentucky in December. Can they do it again Friday night? (Credit: US Presswire)

The Sweet 16 begins tonight, and the Midnight Man is back to break down the best five games to watch.

5) Cincinnati v. Ohio State

In a battle to determine the best team in Ohio (sorry Ohio U and Xavier, you just aren’t), this matchup pins the co-Big Team regular season champ versus the continually underrated and Big East Tournament finalist Bearcats. Jared Sullinger is the key for Ohio State, but he is also surrounded by the solid core of Aaron Craft, William Buford and DeShaun Thomas. Dominate the glass and paint and the Buckeyes advance.  But with Bearcats senior Yancy Gates guarding him, Sullinger will be given all he can handle. Gates is a beast in the paint and if he performs as well as he has this season, the Bearcats may be able to pull off the upset. In the end, the Buckeyes defense likely will force the Bearcats offense into an ugly shooting night, handing the Buckeyes a trip to the Elite Eight. Prediction: Ohio State, 76-59

4) Syracuse v. Wisconsin

Having the potential to be both the weekend’s most boring, but also its most exciting, this matchup pits the deepest team in the country in the Orangemen versus arguably the best coached team in the country in the Badgers.  Led by seniors Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine as well as sophomore Dion Waters, expect Syracuse to play an up-tempo style of basketball, using Jim Boeheim’s famed zone to force Wisconsin into turnovers that lead to fast break points.  On the other hand, look for Wisconsin, under the leadership of underrated senior point guard Jordan Taylor, to slow down the pace of the game in its attempt to turn the game into a half-court battle.  However, the Orangemen’s depth and overall superior talent will lead them to victory and onto the Elite Eight.  Prediction: Syracuse, 72-63

3) Kentucky v. Indiana

The most anticipated game of the week, Kentucky versus Indiana is a re-match of this year’s most thrilling game (sorry Duke-UNC fans), in which Indiana handed Kentucky its only loss with a last second three-point buzzer beater.  With John Calipari once again having his team of young stars clicking at the right time, Kentucky is the tournament’s team to beat.  Anthony Davis is a defensive dynamo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a star in the making and Marquis Teague is playing as well as any point guard in the country over the past three weeks. Yet, Tom Crean’s Hoosiers will not lose quietly. With start freshman center Cody Zeller manning the paint and the versatile Christian Watford effectively working an inside-out game, Indiana will give Kentucky a run for the money. But at the end of the day, Kentucky’s talent and skill will overpower Indiana.  Prediction: Kentucky, 80 – 68

2) Florida v. Marquette

In a game that promises to the fastest-paced of the Sweet 16, expect guard play to determine the winner. While the Golden Eagles best player may be Big East Player of the Year Jae Crowder, whether or not they win will depend on the performances of its three guards: Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan. If these three undersized guards are able to handle Florida’s up-tempo, three-point shooting barrage, Marquette will move on to the Elite Eight.  However, I expect the Gators to chomp down on the Eagles.  With impressive backcourt options in Kenny Boyton, Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario, Scottie Wilbekin, Erving Walker and future NBA star in Dwayne Wade-light Bradley Beal, Florida’s guard play will be too much for Eagles to handle.  Prediction: Florida, 78-73

1) Michigan State v. Louisville

The game of the week, MSU v. Louisville will be long, slow battle between the tournament’s two hottest teams.  Led by do-everything stud Draymond Green and NCAA coach extraordinaire Tom Izzo, the Spartans will hope to push the Cardinals around with their tough, rugged style of play.  If Keith Appling can get hot from deep and Green avoids foul trouble, the Spartans will be one step closer to reaching their seventh Final Four in the past 14 years.  However, Peyton Siva has arguably been the country’s best player over the past two week. His determination and will, combined with strong defensive play by Kyle Kuric and Gorgui Dieng, will push MSU to its breaking point.  But when the game ends, expect Tom Izzo’s Spartans to once again be victorious. Prediction: Michigan State, 65-62.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30 other followers