Changed for the better?

Here we are at the end of the semester, and I’m finishing my final project for J335. I made it! And I’m so happy to finish the class with this project, which is very close to my heart.

I’m about to end my third year here at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and some of my absolute best memories of college have taken place on State Street. From sitting outside Michaelangelo’s coffee shop on the first day of spring, to having a fancy dinner with friends at Cosi, to trudging through the snow to get free frozen yogurt, State Street has served as the center of my campus world for three years. When I saw the plans for the Street’s redevelopment that came out this spring, I couldn’t decide if I was excited to see the new beginnings of the street, or sad at the loss of a great area.

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A sketch of the proposed building which would take up the 500 and 600 blocks of State Street. Courtesy of thedailypage.com: http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=39874

Talking to city and University officials backing the plan made me feel like this might be something great. Talking to students who were frustrated at the loss of some of their favorite places, full of memories and stories from their time here as a Badger made me realize that this development is somewhat of a tragedy.

State Street is what makes Madison unique and special. Knocking down small businesses who have had a home in the area for years to build ANOTHER expensive apartment building is a real loss. It even sounds like it could be the plot in an action movie, we just need a hero to swoop in and save the day, stopping the big city from making a mistake and giving into big companies.

This story made me realize I need to take action to try to help the area, and join my friends who were hoping to keep their favorite restaurants and shops right where they are. We can be the action heroes in this situation.

This is the second time that a story I wrote for J335 inspired me to make a change in my life and join a cause. Though I don’t know if my actions will help create any real results, I need to say I tried. I’m proud to say this isn’t something I probably would’ve done before I took this class.

So, even if the apartment building does go up, I can at least say I did what I could, and through the process, I was changed for the better.

Thanks for everything J335! Senior year here I come!

Long Road Ahead?

Throughout the semester I’ve been working on a feature story about the Solidarity Singers a.k.a. the Solidarity Sing Along that has been going on for over two years at the Wisconsin State Capitol.

Only in July 2012, after over 150 days of peaceful sing alongs were they first punished by law enforcement. Shortly after Capitol Police Chief David Erwin was appointed by the Department of Administration, tickets were being given out almost daily to sing along participants, most for over $100.

The singers stayed peaceful, but quietly began protecting themselves with lawyers. Their singing only got louder though.

This was especially true on Monday, April 15, the day before Chief Erwin’s strict, new “emergency” rules were enforced. The video below is from that day, with over 30 participants on the first floor, and many spectators watching from above.

The future of the Solidarity Sing Along remains unclear. Brandon Barwick, the group’s de facto leader says that they will continue to be there as long as Scott Walker is governor. Capitol police are continuing to enforce harsher punishments on singers to keep them at home. So far, the singers have been successful in court, having all their cases dismissed.

Will dozens continue to show up at the Capitol every day for the next year and a half? Will they stay if Walker is re-elected for four more years?

Even though my official reporting is over, the story definitely isn’t.

You can keep track of the Solidarity Sing Along and all the news surrounding them on their facebook page, through The Capitol Times, The Isthmus, and The Wisconsin State Journal.

I cannot wait to see what is in store for this group, and the Capitol police. Covering their conflicts over the last two and a half months has been fascinating, rewarding and inspiring.

Inspiring and Informative: Unspeakable Conversations

Before reading Unspeakable Conversations, I had never even been aware that infanticide was a topic that people discussed. I have heard of those who believe that a woman should have the right to abort a fetus if it is disabled or believed to be suffering from some sort of mental or physical disability, but actually killing a living infant or child because of a disability is an argument that I (thankfully) have never come across.

I had also never read a story in this form. I was very honestly very intimidated when I was approaching this article because it is a long story with no breaking points in between. It goes against much of the writing techniques we’ve been taught in j202, but it works. It works so well that I don’t think this story would have quite the same effect in any other form. When I was reading it, I felt as if I was right there, listening to Harriet McBryde Johnson telling the story. Though I had never heard of her or Peter Singer, I could visualize them and the situation as if I had seen them every day of my life.

I was curious to learn more about both of the main characters in this story after reading Unspeakable Conversations, and was saddened to learn that Johnson, the author that moved me with this story, passed away suddenly in 2008, at age 50. The Post and Courier of Charleston, South Carolina said her sudden death stunned everyone in Charleston. They describe her as a strong woman, a fighter, but also as having a great sense of humor, and a love of passing people on the street with her power scooter.

The other character in this story, Peter Singer is still a professor at Princeton. Reading more about his beliefs and ideas, I am very confused as to how he could feel this way and so publicly say things like that he doesn’t consider handicapped children as people (paraphrased by Johnson in paragraph 3). An idea like this seems so monstrous to most people, and in fact Johnson refers to him as a monster and a Nazi in the story, names that those around her called Singer. The fact that he basically believes she shouldn’t have had the chance to live, and says this to Johnson, and yet she still by the end looks to him almost as a friend, says so much about who she was as a person.

I really enjoyed this reading. I not only learned about these important ethical issues that I had been previously unaware of, but also learned about a truly inspiring person. How she lived her life is amazing, and a real wake-up call to appreciate what we have, and to treat those around us with kindness and respect no matter what their abilities or their opinions are.

Why Obama Won and Romney Lost

The Obama family on the night of the 2012 election.

Many Americans found the 2012 presidential election results surprising. I was very happy with the results, but shocked that President Obama took all the “battleground” states with the exception of North Carolina. The Republican Party proved to be very entertaining in broadcasting their reasons for why the results turned out as they did. In this blog post, I will be examining some of the reasons given by Republicans for the presidential loss.

The media/fact checkers

Many Republicans adamantly believe the media has a liberal bias. Sarah Palin especially made this newsworthy in the 2008 presidential election, coining the term “liberal gotchya media.” Rich Noyes of the conservative Media Research Center slammed the “media’s biased gaffe patrol” for only magnifying every alleged Romney gaffe while failing to treat the president’s missteps equally. “When Obama infamously declared, ‘You didn’t build that,’ ABC, CBS, NBC didn’t report the politically damaging remark for four days,” Noyes wrote. In contrast, the Republican National Committee pounced on the remarks, used them in advertising, and even building an entire convention theme around the out of context quote. Noyes also says the “fact-checkers” which were very popular during this presidential debate season were bias and pointed out Romney and Ryan’s errors more so than President Obama’s and Vice President Joe Biden’s.

Hurricane Isaac/Sandy/Chris Christie

Republicans also gave Mother Nature as a reason for the defeat, blaming not just Hurricane Sandy, which hit right before Election Day, but Hurricane Isaac as well. Hurricane Isaac hit Florida just as the Republican National Convention was descending on Tampa this August. Viewers of the national convention coverage also hit an all-time low, even being beat out by the TLC reality show “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.” Hurricane Sandy arguably kept some East Coast voters away from the polls. New Jersey governor Chris Christie received most of the blame though, especially for praising President Obama’s reaction to Hurricane Sandy.

Obama suppressing the vote

Republican strategist Karl Rove explains his theory in this video.

Romney not being conservative enough

“If I hear anybody say it was because Romney wasn’t conservative enough, I’m going to go nuts,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said in a Nov. 5 interview with Politico. “We’re not losing 95 percent of African-Americans and two-thirds of Hispanics and voters under 30 because we’re not being hard-ass enough.”

Even before Romney was chosen as the Republican nominee, he was criticized by other potential nominees and the media for being too centrist, with some even saying that he wanted to “wage war” on the Tea Party. It wasn’t until the first presidential debate that Romney made clear how conservative he could be in an effort to sway undecided voters.

“Ignorant Electorate”

Republican Senator Ron Johnson, who Wisconsin elected in November 2010, made headlines last Thursday by blaming President Obama’s re-election on an “ignorant electorate.”

No matter which reason you like best, it is clear to most that the Republican Party needs to change their platform. Like Senator Graham said, the Republican Party really struggles to connect with voters of color and young voters. As a young voter myself, I feel that the Republican Party will not be able to connect with these voting bases unless they change their stance on social issues. Being more conservative will only make this worse. As time passes, the older voters who make up a large part of the conservative base will disappear, unless Republicans change their stance on issues like gay marriage, they will never be able to reach an entire country.