Saturday, May 31, 2008
Updates time. 3/4's of the Ken Kerns interview is completed, but we probably won't see the interview up until sometime in mid-June. Ken has been great to work with, but I feel there's been a flurry of interviews in the month of May and I'd like to slow that trend down before showcasing quite possibly the coolest UF-SG read of the year.
In nat'l newe DNC has ruled it will count Michigan & Florida as half-votes. Even still, the admission of these two states, as well as a likely victory for Hillary in Puerto Rico, may in fact change things for the once front-runner-now-underdog Clinton. There's also the Dakota primary & Montana...so who the heck knows?
Back to Alachua County, for those of you unaware...alleged ALA leader Charles Grapski fired off a Shocking Email to Hugh "Bud" Calderwood, husband to City of Alachua Mayor, Jean Calderwood. The email was published on my Alachua Blog -- see panel on right.
Additionally, Stafford Jones Chairman of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee has handed over all emails between himself and Grapski to TheRadikal.com These emails may be used in an upcoming story.
I'd also like to thank Stephanie Chapman of Penn State University's United Students Against Sweatshops for participating in a Q&A with this blogsite.
I'll be back on shortly. Let's also congratulate Nick Capezza on the return of his Fat Man After Dark program (sponsored by Best Buy). Good work Nick!!!
Thursday, May 15, 2008
TheRaDiKaL: Ok. Please tell us a little bit about yourself, where you go to school, and why you and your fellow colleagues are organizing your fellow students, staging protests, and getting arrested by the dozens-at-a-time.
Stephanie Chapman:I just graduated from Penn State, and in my four years on the University Park campus, the last was the only one worthwhile. In the 2007-2008 school year, I went from student to student activist. And I learned and experienced more organizing, standing up and being arrested for garment workers than I learned doing anything else in college.
Last year, I joined USAS because I have the privilege and therefore, the obligation to help people who cannot help themselves.
On April 15, I was arrested alongside 30 other Penn State students for staging a sit-in at our administrative building. We told the administrators that we were not going to leave the building until Penn State President Graham Spanier signed on to the Designated Suppliers Program, which would ensure living wages and the right to democratic representation for the workers who make Penn State apparel.
We sat-in quietly during business hours while a crowd of more than 200 people marched and chanted to drum beats outside. We began chanting after 5PM. Administration representatives commended us for our "civility".
At 5:30PM the 31 students were arrested. The university charged us with Defiant Criminal Trespass—a third degree misdemeanor—punishable by a one year in prison and a $2,500 fine each.
I will be sticking around Penn State at least until our preliminary hearing on June 11.
TheRaDiKaL: Based solely on your own opinion, what real implications would adoption of the Designated Supply Program have on Penn State University? Is it at all possible that USAS activists are facing an administration entrenched in nothing more than a sense of loyalty to corporate interests, as opposed to the claims of detrimental legal and/or economic effects on the institution?
Stephanie Chapman: Adoption of the Designated Suppliers Program would give Penn State a voice and a vote in the working group implementing the program. All schools signed on would work collectively to pressure the apparel industry to improve conditions and uphold standards in factories. More importantly, if Penn State helps to put the DSP into practice, the workers making our apparel would be ensured a living wage and the right to democratic representation.
Once the DSP is implemented, consumers will be able to purchase sweatshop-free collegiate apparel, and it would not cost them much more than what they are already paying. Only 1% of the retail price of any garment goes to labor costs (to the workers). So, for example, if you doubled that amount, it would only cost the consumer 20 cents more when buying a $20 shirt. Most people are willing to pay a quarter more for an article of clothing knowing that doing so would double the wages of the worker who made it.
Forty-five universities have already adopted the DSP. Other universities recognize that Penn State has a lot of political and economic clout and a lot of influence in the collegiate market. If Penn State were to sign on to the program, more universities would follow suit.
USAS activists and the Penn State community have been refused meetings with President Spanier for two and a half years. Therefore, I can only speculate about Spanier’s motivations for delaying social progress and refusing to adopt the program. It is likely that brands have Spanier by the balls. Adoption of the DSP would not raise tuition, break contracts with licensees or carry any legal ramifications.
TheRaDiKaL: (Per President Spanier's letter [2/21/08]) Why, in your opinion, has the U.S. Dept. of Justice refused to provide a favorable rating and/or antitrust clearance for the proposed DSP?
Stephanie Chapman: In Spanier’s letter, he excused his inaction by claiming that the DSP violates anti-trust laws. But universities with prominent legal programs (Columbia, Georgetown, Duke and Cornell, among others) have already signed on to the program. Legal scholars at Penn State’s own Dickinson School of Law affirm that the DSP would not violate anti-trust laws. In addition, former U.S. Assistant Attorney General Donald Baker reviewed the program in 2006 and found that the DSP does not conflict with any national laws.
Furthermore, Spanier’s statement that the Department of Justice “refused to provide the DSP with a favorable Business Review Letter” is false. The DOJ made no decision regarding the DSP whatsoever. Rather, the WRC willingly withdrew its Business Review Letter when it became apparent that the program would be judged according to politics, not its legal merits.
The WRC’s decision to withdraw their business review request should not stand in the way of Penn State affiliation with the DSP. As Donald Baker wrote in a 2006 memo to Scott Nova, executive director of the WRC, “I also want to stress…that there is no legal impediment to a University Licensor agreeing in principle to the DSP program, and participating in implementation planning, while awaiting the outcome of the DOJ process.”
TheRaDiKaL: President Spanier also stated in his email that: "the tactics your group [PSU - USAS] has enlisted are rude and inappropriate. I would ask that you cease your frequent visits to my office and communicate, if needed, through more customary channels of mail or e-mail" I suppose the president would prefer your group to engage in tactics he and the University brass could more readily ignore. What reactions do you have to this excerpt?
Stephanie Chapman: For two and a half years, our organization has tried to engage Spanier using the customary channels. We’ve emailed, snail mailed, called and (as he acknowledged) frequently visited his office. We’ve delivered endorsements and petitions and invited the administration to debate the issue at a public forum. They refused to participate, just as Spanier has refused to meet with us for years.
And though we continue to attempt communication via these completely ineffective “customary channels,” other tactics are necessary. After being ignored, along with this important issue, for two and a half years, we have recently escalated the campaign and staged protests that Spanier cannot ignore.
TheRaDiKaL: Penn State is a member of the Worker Rights Consortium; please tell our readers what this program is all about, how it ties into the DSP, and what other schools are part of it?
Stephanie Chapman: The Worker Rights Consortium is an independent agency that monitors factories all over the world in order to improve factory conditions. The WRC makes all of its investigations public on workerrights.org and distributes reports to affiliated universities. Licensees (brands) are encouraged to stay in factories where violations occur and work to make necessary improvements. Though the WRC works closely with licensees, there are no industry representatives on the WRC governing board (unlike the ineffective Fair Labor Association). This independence allows the WRC to perform third-party investigations of labor violations.
The WRC originally proposed the DSP in order to combat the root causes of sweatshops: inefficient monitoring, brand pressure and brand flight.
181 universities are already affiliated with the WRC including Penn State. A university or high school can affiliate with the WRC simply by sending a letter expressing affiliation from the school’s chancellor or president. Samples letters can be found on the WRC website.
TheRaDiKaL: Was your organization a part of the [semi-nude] March protest? How much planning goes into a protest? Are activists made to feel as members of one large nucleus - or - is there top/down type leadership?
Stephanie Chapman: Yes, the Naked Parade in spring of 2005 was a USAS demonstration. About 20 people marched across campus in the buff, covering their delicates with “sweatshop-free” signs, blue and white pom-poms and little else.
Protests such as the Naked Parade require a lot of organization. Planning often includes recruiting speakers, writing speeches and chants, advertising and emailing about the event, contacting the press, painting signs and banners, securing and setting up audio equipment, designing t-shirts, and reserving a “free-speech” zone on campus.
As far as organization of the group is concerned, Penn State USAS is strongly democratic. We have no official leaders or officers. Our meetings are run round-table-style by a different member of the group each week and all decisions are voted on, then discussed and voted on again until some form of consensus is reached. Though our group is unfortunately not as diverse as we would like, we try to split up responsibilities among males and females equally. While we were being arrested at the sit-in we lined up in boy-girl order.
TheRaDiKaL: Do you feel that one of the University's tactics may be to wait out the current wave of dissent? Could you please tell the readers just how long the activists at PSU plan on holding out?
Stephanie Chapman: Yes, Spanier hopes that members of USAS will graduate, move away and that the summer will allow for institutional amnesia. He hopes that the struggle for workers’ rights will be forgotten. The Penn State administration has made it very clear that they will continue to ignore concerned and informed students, faculty, local politicians and community members in hopes that we will cease the fight.
Penn State USAS has made it very clear to the administration that we are not going away. We will not stop until Penn State adopts the DSP, affiliates with the working group and meaningfully participates in the struggle for international human rights. On May 1, we marched into the administration building to once again demand that Spanier adopt the DSP and to tell him we are here to stay. Inside Old Main, about 100 protesters were met by police stationed at the bottom of the steps that lead to Spanier’s suite. For 30 minutes we chanted, sang and marched until we were threatened with arrest if we did not leave. During that time, we gave the administrators 5 opportunities to address the statement of support for the DSP we had for them to sign. Spanier was no where to be found and the administration representatives responded to our demand with complete silence.
We will hold out until Penn State adopts the DSP. This summer USAS members are contacting local, state and national politicians, attending a Penn State Board of Trustees Meeting, continuing to reach out to the Penn State community and planning events for the fall semester.
TheRaDiKaL: Tell us about the role, if any, that Student Government plays or has played with your cause? Have there been any efforts to pass favorable resolutions and/or engage the administration on your behalf?
Stephanie Chapman: The newly elected student government has really shown support for USAS this semester. The University Park Undergraduate Association President Gavin Keirans spoke at our Rally for Workers’ Rights this spring and has expressed support for the 31 students arrested and charged with defiant criminal trespass for staging a sit-in. UPUA passed a resolution on May 3 that recognizes that some form of punishment may be appropriate for the students involved in the sit-in, but states that the severity of the charges--misdemeanor of the third degree, rather than a summary offense--is an attempt by Spanier to intimidate students. In support of student activists, UPUA recommended that Spanier encourage the district attorney to drop or lessen the charges against the sit-in participants.
TheRaDiKaL: At the University of Florida, students benefit from an independently published newspaper (The Independent Florida Alligator), similarly at Penn State, students have The Daily Collegian. I guess my question to you would be three-fold. (1) How independent is The Daily Collegian? (2) Does the University brass (the Administration) exert any influence over the paper's content? (3) How would you assess the quality of reporting from the paper on the movement? Favorable, neutral, critica?
Stephanie Chapman: Our paper, The Daily Collegian, is published independently by students at Penn State. The administration tries to intimidate all student activists, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they chastised the Collegian staff for printing material that is supportive of USAS.
Spanier has published two editorials in the Collegian, one in which he makes excuses for his inaction and states that the DSP “does not exist” and another where he states that it’s “not my job” to save the 31 students he arrested for sitting-in from going to jail. Despite the administration’s attempt to intimidate student activists, the media has been a really good avenue to destroy all of the administration’s weak and inaccurate arguments against the DSP. The paper covered USAS delivering more than 3,000 copies of the DSP to faculty members to let them decide if it exists. The next article covered USAS delivering more than 1,200 signatures urging Spanier to drop the misdemeanor charges.
The paper has covered almost all of our events this past year and seems to have become more supportive as our campaign escalated. At the beginning of the year we had to do wild antics like dressing up in a Spanier mask, wearing trash bags to emphasize the administration calling student voices “garbage”, breaking a piñata in a Fair Trade Parade and playing wiffle-ball in Old Main to gain Collegian coverage. But over the last few months, the USAS presence on campus and in the community has gained so much attention that the paper now covers us for doing almost anything.
TheRaDiKaL: I love the DSP Penn State video and plan to help spread the word. With coordinated nationwide efforts to promote the DSP on American college campuses, how will the activists at Penn State use the court of public opinion to turn the heat on an otherwise indifferent and terse-minded University administration?
Stephanie Chapman: Activists at Penn State will continue to work collectively to better the conditions of people all over the world. In addition to USAS, members of the student groups Speakout, Amnesty International, EcoAction, The Anti-Consumerists, The Atheist/Agnostic Society and Students for Justice in Palestine were among the 31 Penn State students arrested for sitting-in. USAS will continue to collaborate with other groups to fight against those who stand in the way of justice in pressed suits and paisley ties with their hands in their pockets.
TheRaDiKaL: Does your organization have a website and/or email? I'd like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me and want you to know that there are many, many fellow activists that are with you in spirit & solidarity.
Stephanie Chapman: Check out the April 15 sit-in and arrest footage, above.
For updates you can join our Facebook group: Get the Sweat Out of Penn State or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you haven't seen this article (featured on Yahoo.com), I really encourage you to. Though I'm not too familiar with Bob Beckel, although his resume seems quite impressive but he works for Fox News.
Has anyone seen this guy on tv? Should call Peter and ask him, as I don't even own one.
Overall, I think Beckel makes some very valid points. No matter which candidate wins, I'd love nothing more than to be proven wrong and see Obama triumphant. I will vote for him if he gets the nomination and I've been supportive, even bought his book. However, I'm always very apprehensive of the Fan Favorite and I just don't know how someone bolts out of the starting gate like that and remains viable for an entire primary and then throughout an entire general election.
I also don't believe Hillary is delusional just yet, I don't think she's in some cramped war room twenty meters underground, issuing orders to non-existent armies of staffers and peering over one over-sized, inaccurate map of Rodham-Clinton-loyal states. With a devastating, albeit somewhat "expected", victory in West Virginia, the former first lady is still winning contests. She may want Veep, like Beckel surmises, but I'm still believing she's going for the gold.
I also love how confident Obama supporters and the pundits are that "decided" elected-and-super-delegates are. There are no formal contracts that bind these folks to their stated preferences... after all, even at the general election level, where members of the Electoral College are expected to vote based on the majority of their State's voters, they don't! In some elections, like 1976, some Electors will even cast ballots for candidates that AREN'T even running to begin with.
I mean here we are predicting the future of the Democratic Party and of America, based largely on the day's mood of highly indecisive political insiders. Many of these so-called "Obama Delegates" were with Hillary before the Domino Effect started. I have a lot more faith in the undecideds that joined Obama, than the original-Hillary-ones that jumped ship like desperate stockholders bailing from a plummeting share.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
What a great night! Checked into the Holiday Inn Express and checked out feeling rejuvenated, miss her already, but I made amends eating an awesome breakfast and sitting at Starbucks feeling totally spent, sipping a Venti Soy Honey Latte over ice. Initially I had chosen a seat next to another quite lovely lady, Eastern European, young, tanned, and reading a book. I asked if she'd watch my book-bag. She nodded passively, almost indifferently. I couldn't make out her facial expression, but I was almost certain her eyes wandered off that prop-book several second out of each minute, scanning Hollywood Circle in front of her and avidly discerning the V.I.P.'s from the wannabes strolling on the sidewalk in front of her.
I miss her, got my backpack, and came back inside -- it's too friggin hot out there. What's the deal with men? I had sex all night long and here I am looking over my right shoulder at a blonde in white towel shorts. She's hugging her sister and I've got Rancid blasting in my ears... I'm really hoping these two will get it on under the Red Hot Moon.
I'm feeling so honest.
Another girl has walked, cute face. Another blonde, dirty blonde; and I think she knows I'm writing about her. SBlondie #1 is gone and more girls enter, from the left and the right -- "oh what to do?"
Soo....I need to study now. Hope all of you at UF-SG, even the System Tools, Turncoats, & Keys find yourselves well.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
I miss Lansing, actually I miss my apartment, the coffee shop, my gym, and my car, but here I am back in South Florida for a few days. The occasion? Mother's Day. Still, it was fun studying torts & contracts on an Airbus.
I'm already piecing together the trip itinerary for trip to D.C. in a couple of weeks. I mean who believe that TheRadikal has never seen the nation's capital...the White House, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial, all things that make our nation great -- well actually I'm going mainly to hang out with Pete, but the sites will be nice too. Hopefully I can get in on an anti-war protest, meet some leftists, and/or get some good books.
Anyways, just checking into the treehouse.
Friday, May 09, 2008
Call Frank Bracco crazy all you like, but it's usually the crazies that have proven the most faithful leaders of the Independent community -- Dan Fitzpatrick, Peter David Gruskin, Ben Mattison, Charles Grapski are the ones that go down in history, whether collecting party fliers at Turlington, losing their voice calling on the students to react via a megaphone, or suing a leadership honorary that has denied controlling every aspect of life at the University of Florida Student Government -- and winning. The fearless few, they're the ones we remember and the ones we'll celebrate. Bruce Haupt whether he cares to admit it or not, Bruce Haupt kept the Independent movement alive, he's the incarnate Jesus Christ of every independent today, all ten O&B Senators owe Bruce a beer and a thank you.
Anyways, I'm hoping we'll have the Ken Kerns interview completed by Sunday, so it should be up shortly. I also should fess up that I rejected a rather lengthy comment by Josh Simmons; quite frankly having him on my blog rather cheapens the page, no offense, but you'll notice I've never really done Q&A's with anyone of them. Simmons, was quite into the idea at one point, but there's no interest on my part. This is an Independents' blog, I will cover rivals I believe have some decency, but I will never give a Turncoat a forum with which to reminisce about the days when they sabotaged a movement whose message I once tried to spread with all my all.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
TheRaDiKaL: Tell us a little bit about yourself and why you decided to run for the Student Senate.
Sen. Mark McShera I am a sophomore political science and history major from Tampa, Florida. Outside of student government I am the College Democrats Editorial Chair. My first direct experience with student government came with the Progress Party in Fall 2007 when my friend, and party president, Joe Trimboli encouraged me to get involved. I decided to run for student senate because over my two years at UF it had become painfully obvious that senate needs some strong, independent voices to bring accountability.
TheRaDiKaL: As you may be aware, I too was a CLAS Senator with an Independent party. What has the public service experience been for you so far? Positive? Trying?
Sen. Mark McShera Senate has been very fun so far. Some have said there has been too much partisan bickering in chambers but I think we have had some great debates over issues like cabinet reform and senate's role as an advocate for the student body.
TheRaDiKaL: In a March 4th Alligator article you responded in the capacity of O&B Party Chairman that over two dozen violations against your party, filed by the Gator Party were in fact "frivolous" complaints. After the Alan Passman case, were there any concerns that if followed through, any of these complaints could result in disqualifications?
Sen. Mark McShera We thought the complaints served no purpose other than to disqualify the party. Ryan Day filed a mass amount of complaints to make Orange & Blue appear to be a renegade with no regard for the rules. As the vast majority of the 30 some complaints were eventually dropped, I think frivolous remains the best way to describe the complaints.
TheRaDiKaL: How would you describe this past Spring's election and from a strategic perspective, was it necessary for your party's front-runner to broadcast his sexual preference as boldly as he did? Was the idea to alienate as many voters as possible?
Sen. Mark McShera The past spring election served as a proving ground for our party to show we are a viable, competitive alternative to the Gator Party. We wanted to start building a movement that will one day result in a majority and I think we made great strides. I don't think that Tommy's sexuality was an issue that we trumpeted, outside of his guest column I don't remember seeing it mentioned once. As far as I could tell it was a non-issue.
TheRaDiKaL: Speaking in terms of the O&B "Wiki-Platform," do you see any potential conflict on interests in regards to switching UF Webmail with Google' gmail? With a name as emblematic of the Gator Nation as O&B, what kind of school spirit do you think emulated from a platform that suggested quitting on Webmail and replacing it with a corporate substitute?
Sen. Mark McShera I don't see any conflict of interest in switching to gmail unless Bernie Machen has some controlling interesting in Google that I am unaware of. The average student recognizes that gmail is an incredible upgrade over webmail. On the campaign trail that’s one of the issues that really grabs voters' attention.
TheRaDiKaL: Your party's choice for Vice President should have been, in my opinion, your choice for President. What experience, exactly, did Tommy Jardon have for the nomination? Do you think it's appropriate to run a turncoat for the presidency under a GDI ticket?
Sen. Mark McShera Tommy had the experience that comes along with being a leader in student government over an extended period of time. Our model was the Impact Party from Spring and Fall 2005, both successful independent parties. Tommy was an integral part of their achievements and we thought his extensive experience made him a strong candidate. I would dispute the notion that Tommy ever “turncoated” as he never asked for nor received anything from Ryan Moseley. He thought that Ryan could bring substantive change to student government at UF and briefly worked to bring that about.
TheRaDiKaL: What was your reaction(s) to the UF Supreme Court ruling that online voting is unconstitutional? With double digits in the Senate, will O&B vote to confirm President O'Reilly's selected justices or can we expect O&B senators to filibuster until 4 a.m. if need be? Without divulging, are there any strategies in the works to hinder another pool of system drones from being sworn in for '08-'09?
Sen. Mark McShera The Supreme Court’s ruling is completely and totally indefensible. 5683 students saw 4 law students throw their rights under the bus. As a matter of law the decision is total garbage. A real court will recognize Justice Campbell’s dissent as the only sensible opinion on the matter and send the amendment to the students for a vote. We will scrutinize Reilly’s selections and if he nominates system drones we will do everything we can to stop them from being confirmed.
TheRaDiKaL: Issue/Reaction (Short Answer Please)
Sen. Mark McShera
Roam Towing -- Roam Towing- It’s gotten much better since the new restrictions came into effect in Fall 2007. As the city council can hardly challenge the power of the towing companies I struggle to see it as an SG issue
2 A.M. Rave Ordinance -- I could see pushing it back to 230 or 3 but 2 isn’t too restrictive to in my mind.
Minus Grade Implementation -- Minus Grade Implementation- Having plus grades but no minus grades is frankly ridiculous. We should also add an A+ to maximize UF students’ competitiveness for grad school.
Senate Committee Appointments -- Senate Committee Appointments- Shameful but not shocking. There have been assurances they will improve so we will see where that goes.
Campus Sustainability/Green Areas -- Campus Sustainability/Green Areas- PTI needs to get over herself and allow the sustainability fee to help pay for things like biodiesel on buses.
Campus Recycling -- Campus Recycling- Recycling bins need to be more visible and abundant on campus. The idea of partnering with Pepsi to increase the number of recycling bins should be the model.
24 Hour Study Center -- 24 Hour Study Center- Considering our budget problems, I think there are enough spots on campus between libraries and dorms to study.
TheRaDiKaL: To what extent would you say (if any), for those of us long graduated, does FBK exert control over SG and/or key players in 2008?
Sen. Mark McShera Florida Blue Key is the power behind student government at UF. FBK may not actively mettle in the day-to-day operations of the Reilly administration but he still only received the nomination after picking up enough Key support.
TheRaDiKaL: Name association (5 words or less, preferably honest, no bs reactions)
Sen. Mark McShera
Ryan Day - Self-important turncoat
Kim Cruts- Bad press management
C.J. Brian Aungst: Ultimate system tool
Kellie Dale: Temperamental and in over her head
Bernie Machen: Worst UF President in the modern era
Campus SDS: Impressive Tenacity
Charles Grapski: Either brilliant or insane, probably both
Frank Bracco: Hard worker but sometimes unrealistic
Peter Gruskin: Only heard the name, don’t know enough to comment
Vanessa Goodwin: "As far as the idea that the Federal Government invented AIDS to infect the black community, its not that far fetched."
Sam Green: Power behind Jamal Sowell
Ryan Moseley: Best system politician in my time at UF, by far
Fernando Nin: Again not enough info to comment
Sam Miorelli: Extremely hardworking, great talent for pissing people off
Tommy Jardon: Strong leader, adroit strategist
Patricia Telles-Irvin: Machen’s lackey
Faculty Senate: Need to show more balls in the face of Machen’s move on the provost
Independent Florida Alligator. On the way back after a few mediocre semesters
TheRaDiKaL: Any parting words?
Sen. Mark McShera It’s been a great honor to add my name to the list of people, like Liz Stinson and Bruce Haupt, who have been interviewed by the Radikal. Thanks for the opportunity.