AR 16 Tarnishes Student Representation

UT students of diverse interests and beliefs gather at the Student Activities Center food court for lunch and coffee

Danny Zeng | October 22, 2013

“What is Student Government for?” Well hopefully for all students. From this fundamental premise do I strongly take issue with a current Student Government resolution AR16: In Support of Undocumented Students and Undocumented Longhorn Week (which by the way was last week), for it caters to the interest of a particular group and fails to represent a plurality- perhaps even majority – of students on campus.

The proponents of this resolution had repeatedly argued on precedent, citing a SG resolution in 2010 in support of major components of the DREAM Act. I must ask though: if precedent is good enough, then why even elect representatives into office or attempt to periodically “reaffirm” former legislation? The very nature of seeking reaffirmation in this case is a legislative choice that forgoes the power of the precedent.  Put it another way, if that 2010 resolution is already good enough, why push for a separate legislation now to reaffirm its substance? While consulting precedents is a prudential course of action, it does not mean precedents are infallible and sacrosanct; our government has overturned its own precedents many times throughout the nation’s history. If the precedent argument sustains, Student Government’s passage of AR 16 tonight in implicitly endorsing a particular student group’s agenda would in effect open up the floodgate for all student organizations, religious, cultural, political, etc. to seek declarative recognition for their contributions and activities on this campus.

The proponents also argue that the resolution is simply intended to show support for fellow Longhorns. Yet, AR 16 specifically mentions the University Leadership Initiative, which in my view is an overtly political campus group. In an October 5th tweet from the group, the ULI announced, “Come out and support us as we march for immigrants rights here in Austin!” [this conveniently blurs the line between legal immigration and illegal immigration but that aside…] Similarly, in the group’s press release on August 26th of this year, it stated that “If Congress is serious about passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill, then it should take into consideration family reunification.” Actually, I and many others happen to believe the contrary: serious immigration reform requires us to move away from family reunification and toward a more talent-based system, a dramatically different policy preference. From the context I have provided using ULI’s own words, I would suggest to you that ULI is an organization with a clear and stated political agenda. The passage of AR 16 would thus only narrowly represent one point of view in a controversial, heavily contested political issue.

Proponents’ Letter of Concern on October 15th charges, “how is it that our ‘representatives’ are willing to deny many of our family members, friends and classmates the support that they deserve?” I honestly feel bad for our student government representatives who are in effect being bullied to support this resolution or else be perceived as morally deficient, for not doing the “right” thing. Basing their arguments on victimization and the rhetoric of “deserve,” proponents’ use of guilt tripping tactics not only undermine civil discourse, it unnecessarily creates fissures within the UT community. In fact, if you ask me, may I suggest that most of our Student Government reps open-mindedly and almost apologetically kowtows on this issue because they are so respectful (afraid) of our undocumented activist peers. If anything, the power to deny is well within the court of proponents.

In summary, I reject the notion that Student Government of this University of Texas necessarily has to support and advocate for activities, initiatives, beliefs, and goals of any particular student group on any overtly controversial political issue – at the expense of other students’ beliefs – when the issue could be best left to the campus political community to hash out. If one student group could steer the legislative agenda of our student government, then SG would be nothing more than a rubber stamp for special interests on this campus. Let us all do our fellow Longhorns the decency of respecting their diverse experiences and upbringings and not cavalierly disparage and dismiss hardships that they have lived through as fellow human beings.

Midnight Tweets from #HB2: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Blue Shirts Rally at the Capitol

Pro-life advocates organize and gather inside the Texas Capitol to support HB2 sponsored by Rep. Laubenberg (R-Parker) Photo Courtesy of Texas Alliance for Life

Danny Zeng | July 3rd, 2013

OK, I admit. The first one is biased…BUT that picture shared by Governor Perry is priceless. The other ones are great pro-life arguments made by everyday folks on Twitter. Overall, the overwhelming amount of tweets under #Stand4Life, including many posted by first-time Twitter users (discernible by an egg picture), was very encouraging. Around midnight, the House State Affairs Committee voted 8-3 in favor of HB 2 out of the committee. The bill will now go to the full House for consideration. Pro-lifers prevailed in face of rampant vulgarity and “hail satan” chants!

The Good

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.31.51 AM Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.32.06 AM Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.32.24 AM Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.32.36 AM Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.32.51 AM Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.33.04 AM

The Bad

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.10.37 AM

The most recent Texas Tribune poll states otherwise: 62% of respondents (including 61% of women) show at least some support for abortion restrictions. National Journal released a poll that shows 48% of Americans favor a bill that bans abortion after 20 weeks, a four-point lead over the opponents. The same polls shows that a majority (51%) of young people aged 18-29  favor such a ban (and 41% oppose). In addition, 50% of women are in favor of such ban as opposed to 44% against. This again goes to show that people who descend upon the Capitol do not represent Texans and the American people.

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.12.22 AM

To them, it’s a joke.

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.12.08 AM

Wow…

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.11.49 AM

When they speak of “human rights”…well you can read it again from Kirsten Powers’ column from yesterday

Human-rights movements have traditionally existed to help the voiceless and those without agency gain progressively more rights. Yet in the case of abortion, the voiceless have progressively lost rights at the hands of people who claim to be human-rights crusaders. Abortion-rights leaders have turned the world upside down. They want us to believe that a grown woman is voiceless, that she has less agency than the infant in her womb who relies on her for life. A woman has so little agency, we are told, that she is incapable of getting an abortion before the fifth month of her pregnancy. To suggest she should do so is a “war on women.” It’s an insult to women dressed up as “women’s rights.” (The Daily Beast July 2, 2013)

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.11.35 AM

Thanks but no thanks. I don’t think we’ll take advice from a self-avowed “progressive Democrat.” But apparently some young women would stand for “hail satan?”

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.10.56 AM

Please explain the moral distinction between “pro-abortion” and “pro-choice”

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.09.33 AM

“The unborn” who is indisputably on a path to BE born and is at the most vulnerable stage of his/her life…Yes, I’d say we care more about “the unborn” versus a fully-grown adult.

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.09.59 AM

Dream big. I like it.

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.10.24 AM

The whole structure of the federal constitution is to outline, limit, and separate power into three branches of government and establish a system of checks and balances to protect the kind of “inalienable rights” proposed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, “that among these are Life, Liberty, and pursuit of Happiness” umm in that order where Life takes precedence (perhaps common sense?) over liberty and pursuit of happiness. I’m curious to see the right to abortion in the Constitution.

The Ugly

Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.12.44 AM Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.12.53 AM Screen shot 2013-07-03 at 1.12.33 AM

Not worthy of comments.

Forget Reason: Self Defense is Simply Human Nature

Image

State Rep. Allen Fletcher speaking in favor of HB 972 in the Texas House
Courtesy of Austin American-Statesman

Danny Zeng | May 6, 2013

Washington Post did a followed-up story titled, “A clear case of self-defense rallies supporters of gun rights,” about an incidence that happened in January, when a Georgian Mother shot a burglar who broke into her house when both of her children were home. That’s the point that defenders of gun rights have been making time after time: it’s about self-defense; it always has been.

In the past few months, this debate was distorted in the public discourse to support a menu of “reasonable” measures. Whenever a piece of legislation is broken down into component parts, people are more likely to support individual parts than the legislation as a whole.  That’s the polling tactic used by gun-control advocates throughout this debate. It’s the same tactic used to push Obamacare through. An overwhelming majority, Republicans and Democrats, supported provisions such as a coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, tax credits for individuals and small businesses, and closing the Medicare “doughnut hole;” even though Obamacare overall remains divisive. The Texas Legislature is presently wrestling with campus carry bills. The argument for us is still the same: it’s about self-defense.

Though an important detail ignored – intentionally or otherwise – in the WaPo story is the burglar’s history of criminality. ABC reported in January, “Last year he [Paul Slater] served 6 months in jail for battery and has at least six other arrests on his record.” The story never even mentions this point. In fact, the lingering impression is almost sympathetic to Zakia Slater’s (wife of the burglar) predicament. Her role as a schoolteacher, a mother of six, and a depicted “victim” in the situation attempt to humanize the other side of the conflict. This distracts from the fact that her husband’s a criminal, an important fact that underlies the whole logic behind gun-rights advocates for self-defense.

Same rationale, rooted in human nature, applies to support for campus carry. Why should we as college students living in one of the most high-density areas in Austin deny possibilities of irrational violence and criminality  and deprive ourselves of effective means to self-defense? Simple faiths in the security of our campus and the professionalism of our police force have failed to prevent campus shootings and violent crimes in recent years. DOE’s Office of Postsecondary Education reports 649 burglaries, 124 motor vehicle theft, 66 aggravated assaults, and 51 forcible sex offense, and 33 robberies on Texas college campuses.  In this sense, to be against campus carry is to be for status quo, a situation that exposes us to dangerous and perhaps irrational minds in our society.

Melinda Herman did what any mother would do for her children. In moments of inexplicable chaos, I can’t imagine any self-preservative motive greater than one’s inherent instinct to protect people we love. I do realize that in the Hermans’ case, the gun is within the confines of her home, but the underlying logic is nonetheless the same: the possession of a firearm is the only effective mean to stop a violent perpetrator, as opposed to a slew of ridiculous guidelines offered by universities across the country:

  • Wichita State University counsels students in the following manner: “If the person(s) is causing death or serious physical injury to others and you are unable to run or hide you may choose to be compliant, play dead, or fight for your life.”
  • The University of Miami guidelines suggest that when all else fails, students should act “as aggressively as possible” against a shooter. The guidelines, taken from a Department of Homeland Security directive, also recommend “throwing items and improvising weapons,” as well as “yelling.”
  • Otterbein University, in Ohio, tells students to “breathe to manage your fear” and informs them, “You may have to take the offensive if the shooter(s) enter your area. Gather weapons (pens, pencils, books, chairs, etc.) and mentally prepare your attack.”
  • West Virginia University advises students that if the situation is dire, they should “act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter.” These items could include “student desks, keys, shoes, belts, books, cell phones, iPods, book bags, laptops, pens, pencils, etc.”
  • The University of Colorado at Boulder’s guidelines state, “You and classmates or friends may find yourselves in a situation where the shooter will accost you. If such an event occurs, quickly develop a plan to attack the shooter … Consider a plan to tackle the shooter, take away his weapon, and hold him until police arrive.

The Texas House gave Rep. Fletcher’s campus carry bill, which includes an “opt out” provision allowing institutions to decide its own gun policy, a preliminary OK over the weekend. The eyes will now be on the Senate and the Lieutenant Governor who has the power to reassign Birdwell’s bill to another committee. The fight goes on. We are that much closer to a more sensible campus carry law that would contribute to the safety of our campuses throughout Texas.

CRUD Debate: References for Concealed Carry

As promised, here is a list of references we’ve used for the debate on the topic of concealed carry.

Facts & References 

57% of criminals in a DoJ sponsored study in 1981 say that they fear armed citizens more than armed police (Rossi & Wright 1986)

Convictions of CHL holders

Of 63,000 convictions in Texas in 2011, 120 CHL holders were convicted. Less than .2% of convictions in Texas were of CHL holders. (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/reports/convrates.htm)

Number of young people with CHLs

In 2011 6637 out of 143,725 total granted were granted to 24 and younger, that’s 4.6%. In 2011 3978 people in Travis County were granted CHLs. If 4.6% of those were granted to 24 and younger, we’re looking at 183 people, but UT only makes up 5% of Travis County’s population, thus only an estimated 9 students have CHL at UT. So it’s not like there are going to be vigilantes running through campus or that all of our students will be armed. (I know this number is speculation, but it’s food for thought. We can at least point out the fact that only 4.6% of people receiving CHLs are 24 or younger.) (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/reports/demoreportscy11.htm)

Murder rates in TX since CHL Law

Murder rate in Texas has decreased from 11.0 per 100,000 in 1994 to 4.2 per 100,000 in 2011 CHL law took effect in 1995. And rates were even higher prior to the CHL law.

(http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/administration/crime_records/pages/crimestatistics.htm)

Numbers at a glance (some nice charts included) http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp

In 2004, U.S. National Academy of Sciences released its evaluation from review of 253 articles, 99 books, and 43 government publications failed to identify any gun control measures that reduced violent crimes, suicide, and gun accidents

2003 Center for Disease and Control concluded similarly

Underlying socio-economic and social factors are at play, not the mechanism for murder; Russia, Belarus, and Luxembourg have banned gun ownership yet have higher murder rates (Don Kates & Gary Mauser)

Scholars like Gary Kleck (University of Florida, a registered Democrat, ACLU member), James Wright (University of Massachusetts), John Lott, David Mustard (University of Georgia), and Peter Rossi have all changed their opinions from being anti-gun to more pro-concealed carry over the last couple of decades as new empirical data overwhelmingly show that gun control do not work

Arguments that Danny Zeng has made before online, including citing Gary Kleck’s study on his personal blog that raised the point about simply switching guns for more rounds, if magazines were to be limited, provided that major shooters had multiple guns on them – which was mostly the case for mass shooters in the last two decades 

Things to Think About Re: Immigration for Tonight

Image

Danny Zeng | March 5, 2013

There are about 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., including hundreds of undocumented students attending the University of Texas at Austin. What drives immigration? What are some of the struggles that immigrants face on a daily basis? What is the political solution to this issue? What kind of discourse should we have to ensure that America continues to stand for opportunity and freedom? Join us tonight in GAR 0.102 from 6 to 8pm to explore these points with some of the distinguished scholars on this issue. Immigration reform has been on the back burner for policy makers of all stripes for a very long time now. Our nation needs to rethink how we go about managing the flow of immigrants and emigrants in an increasingly globalized world. We don’t agree too much with our friends from University Democrats, but we do agree on the need to take action on this issue. Instead of providing an exhaustive list of points to consider, I offer you the following less-emphasized points to think about on this issue that I personally find quite interesting:

  • Citizenship through marriage has provided thousands of foreign nationals a path to become U.S. citizens. This is under the “nationality through naturalization” part of the Immigration and Nationality Act. However, currently U.S citizens with gay and lesbian partners cannot successfully petition for their foreign spouses to become naturalized citizens because their civil union is not recognized by the U.S government. Specifically, the law states that the foreign spouse has to have been continuously “living in marital union with the citizen spouse” [emphasis mine] for three years prior to applying for naturalization. Not only this, same-sex foreign spouses cannot even be petitioned for green cards. These hurdles have caused some gay and lesbian Americans to immigrate to other countries to live with their foreign spouses. Regardless of your position on marriage equality, this is an incidence of legal discrimination against one group of Americans, pushing them away from homeland; such anathema should be considered for amendment.
  • The visa geared toward highly skilled workers, H1-B visas, had a cap at 85,000 in 2012. U.S. firms hit the cap as early as June of last year, causing many companies to lose qualified candidates who could greatly contribute to our economy, including graduate students working in American research universities. The cap needs to be enlarged or lifted to allow for a more dynamic movement of skilled labor and talents into the U.S. This will ensure our competitiveness in the global economy. Is the U.S. experiencing a labor shortage? Who are the winners and losers for allowing more foreign skilled workers to come to the U.S?
  • Some in the debate focus heavily on the terms “path to citizenship” versus “path to permanent residency.” In actuality, they are much the same for many immigrants, as many Latino immigrants stop short of becoming naturalized by maintaining their green card status instead. For Mexican immigrants, their naturalization rate is at mere 36%, lower than 61% for Latino immigrants overall, according to research by Pew Hispanic Center. Many choose not to naturalize for personal and administrative reasons i.e. need to learn English and cost of application is too high. How can we get people more involved on this issue in politics? In fact, net migration from Mexico was reported to be zero in 2012. Note this does not mean there were not people coming from Mexico, but simply that as many people are going from the U.S. to Mexico as well. Data also indicates that immigration from Mexico is at all-time low.
  • Asian Americans have become the fastest growing racial group in the United States, according to Pew Research Center. Though ethnically diverse within this larger racial construct, Asian Americans as a whole earn more money (median salary at $66,000)  and are better educated (49%  have at least bachelor degree). The group has grown 46% since 2000 – Texas being the second-largest growth state for Asian Americans. Today, Asians constitute 4.4% of population in Texas (Census data). However, looking through Asian American history, Asians had faced legal immigration barriers for ages  i.e. Chinese Exclusion Acts, Immigration Act of 1917, Cable Act, Nationality Act of 1940. The Asian population  especially Chinese Americans, have had a history of “illegal” immigration. A present influx of illegal immigrants from Asia persist today. How can we reconcile the relative affluence and talents of this group with components of illegal immigration? More bluntly, do economic demands trump legality?

Congress is projected to tackle immigration this year, as early as late March. And just yesterday, Secretary Napolitano called immigration her “No.1” priority. The political climate is ripe for immigration reform, if not at least major changes to existing immigration system. The challenges and opportunities facing immigration are rooted in politics, history, and law.

College Republicans are honored to co-host this immigration policy forum with our friends from University Democrats tonight here on campus. We’ve assembled some of UT’s top faculty in this field to join us for the dialogue. Join us for a lively conversation on this issue! #UTimmigration

Continue reading