COCKBURN PULLS NO PUNCHES WITH LUSTERLESS FRONT-RUNNERS

BY REBECCA MCPHAIL

DAILY COUGAR STAFF

Decrying Bill Clinton and George Bush alike, controversial journalist Alexander Cockburn lobbed sharp-witted barbs at people on both sides of the political fence during his lecture Monday evening.

The lecture, held in the University Center, focused mainly on the current state of American politics and the upcoming presidential election.

Calling on the United States to face the realities of life after the Cold War, Cockburn made no attempt to conceal his displeasure with the country's current state of affairs.

"The central fact to face this year is the U.S. is now in a post-Cold War society. How can you justify a $300 billion defense budget? You can't, really," he said.

Even though Cockburn is firmly entrenched in American journalism, his actual birthplace is Scotland.

He moved to Ireland, where he is an official citizen, at a young age. It was there that he began exploring journalism as a career, much to his mother's dismay.

"During Cold-War Ireland in the '50s, journalism was a chancy thing. I think my mom wanted me to be an oil-company executive," Cockburn said.

After attending Oxford University in London, Cockburn followed a girlfriend, who was writing a book about General Motors, to the United States.

Soon after, he began writing for New York's Village Voice newspaper. His alliance with the Voice lasted 10 years.

In 1983, Cockburn landed the job he still holds today. His column, "Beat the Devil," appears bi-weekly in The Nation, the ancient left-of-center newspaper.

In addition to "Beat the Devil," Cockburn also writes a weekly column for the L.A. Times and an alternative column that is syndicated in about 20 newspapers nationwide.

Cockburn's columns are peppered with shots at people on both ends of the political spectrum.

Although he has received criticism for his attacks on political figures, Cockburn defends his commentary.

"There are very few personal attacks. Most of them are based on ideas. I think most journalists are too pussy-footed anyway," he said.

During his lecture, Cockburn evaluated the current front-runners in the presidential race with a critical eye.

"The state of Arkansas is not a great advertisement for Clinton's politics. Besides, any man who takes that much care of his hair can't be all good," he said.

Yet, it was clear he felt the Republicans also held little, if any, promise.

"Buchanan's racist and anti-Semitic views are clear, but it's not reported because it's hard to say that one of the most respected journalists in the country is a vigorous defender of the Nazis," he said.

Only the Democratic presidential candidate, former California Gov. Jerry Brown, found favor with Cockburn. However, Cockburn is not optimistic about Brown's chances in November.

"The liberal left is not really prepared to think adventurously," he said.

Despite his claims that he's a liberal, Cockburn harbors no romantic illusions about either side.

"The left is a bit knee-jerk and predictable," he said, "and the right is mostly just wrong."

HARVARD LAW REVIEW OFFERS APOLOGY FOR PARODY

BY COUGAR NEWS SERVICE

Two Harvard Law School students who parodied the feminist views of a slain legal scholar have apologized, saying they now realize the article was tasteless and offensive.

"We realize that it was very wrong to write the parody," co-authors Craig Coben and Ken Fenyo, members of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, said in a statement.

The students also said they apologized to Mary Joe Frug's husband, Gerald, a professor at Harvard Law School. They added that they did not mean to distribute the article on the anniversary of her death.

Frug, a professor at New England Law School, was stabbed to death April 4, 1991, a few blocks from her home in a wealthy Cambridge neighborhood. Police do not have any suspects.

In March, the Review published a posthumous article by Frug called "A Postmodern Feminist Legal Manifesto," which explored the legal theories on violence toward women.

The Associated Press reported April 14 that there was opposition to the publication of Frug's work by members of the Review, and that many on the Harvard campus felt the spoof was done in retaliation.

The parody, entitled "He-Manifesto of Post-Mortem Legal Feminism," was included in the Harvard Law Revue, an annual spoof of the Harvard Law Review. It was signed by "Mary Doe, Rigor-Mortis Professor of Law" and reportedly argued that Frug's theories were the concoction of paranoid feminists.

"The piece offends all standards of decency," said Robert C. Clark, dean of the law school. "(The article) displays a gross insensitivity to the feelings of others."

The newly-elected president of the Harvard Law Review has written a public apology for the article even though she said she had nothing to do with it.

Emily Schulman said the parody publication was the product of third-year law students only, and that she never saw the article before it was distributed at a banquet in her honor.

"The responsibility for this fell on previous presidents," said Schulman, who called the issue "vicious" and suspended publication of the Revue, a long-standing Harvard tradition.

"The Review reflects an understanding of the need to confront and deflate the arrogance and elitism that Law Review culture breeds and rewards," she said in a statement released April 11.

Schulman also admonished the authors and editors of the Revue, saying the parody would be used by a professor as "an example of hate speech" in his law class, that the Law Review would develop a task force to assess the treatment of women on the staff and that money normally used to publish the Revue would be donated to a charity in the name of Mary Joe Frug.

Professor Lawrence Tribe, a Harvard Law School scholar, described the Harvard campus as "being in shock" since the publication of the article, with many asking, "How could this be assumed to be funny?"

"It has led to introspection as to what it is that makes this kind of thing possible," he said, noting that "It's not just one or two bad apples; the whole barrel needs to be examined."

"Those who would deny there is a problem of violence toward women, that it is a product of female fantasy, who deny it after the murder and mutilation of a distinguished feminist scholar, are living in a fantasy world of their own.

"When they deny it in the particularly grotesque and hurtful way, such as this horrible parody, they mindlessly inflict terrible pain by desecrating the memory of those who have suffered and those who have been left behind," Tribe said.

Tribe blames the lack of diversity among law professors at Harvard Law School for creating fertile ground for sexist behavior and attitudes.

"We have an exclusive male faculty. It's not surprising they just don't get it. Something needs to be done to broaden the base for the elite and powerful," he said.

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KING ALLEGATIONS, UNIVERSITY THEFT REPORTS COINCIDE

BY CHRIS PAYNE

DAILY COUGAR STAFF

Around the same time Dana King filed a discrimination lawsuit against the university, alleging, among other things, theft of state property by Physical Plant administrators, the UH Police Department issued an inter-departmental memorandum to address UH's staggering inventory problem.

King, 41, a former Physical Plant plumber, worked at UH from 1982 until he was fired for the second time on Sept. 25, 1990. He filed suit against the university in May 1990.

His lawsuit alleges administrators in the Physical Plant were involved in the theft of state property.

The UH System's Property Management Department reported more than $5 million in lost, missing and stolen capital equipment in fiscal year 1990. "Capital" equipment means property valued at more than $500.

UHPD Assistant Chief Frank Cempa would not comment on whether his department has ever investigated purported theft within the Physical Plant. Nor would he comment on the 1985 incident regarding a missing sewer machine.

But Cougar investigations have revealed that, in the summer of 1991, UHPD was actively investigating Building Maintenance Manager Paul Postel, one of the defendants in King's suit, for allegedly misappropriating state funds from the sale of scrap metal hauled from campus.

The investigation, however, came to a halt because of insufficient evidence, a UHPD official said.

King's suit alleges he was harassed and eventually fired for his participation in a UHPD investigation in which he positively identified a missing sewer machine found in Physical Plant foreman James Mitchell's possession. No charges were ever filed against Mitchell, the suit charges.

Mitchell was originally listed as a defendant in King's suit, but has since been dropped because allegations against him happened too long ago to satisfy the statute of limitations.

"Due to the fact that litigation is pending against the university, I would prefer not to comment, and would defer comment to university counsel," Cempa said, when asked about the '85 sewer-machine incident and if any UHPD investigations into the Physical Plant have been initiated.

Louis DeLeGarza, one of the investigating UHPD officers of the '85 sewer-machine incident, said, "I never want anything to do again with UH. No, you don't understand at all; I have nothing to say."

On August 1, 1990, UHPD issued an inter-departmental memorandum, asking all personnel to stop completing standard Inventory Discrepancy Reports when "notified of inventory problems within the university system."

The same memo advises that when departments notify UHPD of inventory problems, the departments should then be informed that "new guidelines have been established" by Property Management, and all new "inquiries" should be referred to Ron Headley, head of Property Management.

The memo also explicitly states that the new guidelines refer only to "inventory discrepancies," and not "actual theft."

The memo states: "When we are notified of a possible problem, we should attempt to determine which type of incident we are dealing with before referring the department involved back to Property Management."

Cempa said the memo was written to establish a better system of accountability when dealing with reported thefts of state property on campus.

Cempa said "inventory discrepancies" often entail shoddy record-keeping on the part of various university departments and their property managers, including data bases that are not updated and clerical errors. UHPD, he said, often receives calls reporting theft that actually turn out to be items that are present, but have simply been lost through human error.

The memo, he said, was an effort to ensure that UHPD would not be "writing wholesale theft reports" when no theft had actually occurred.

But another UHPD memo, dated July 25, 1991, overturns the August 1, 1990, memo, and asks all personnel to take "theft reports when various departments within the university system notify us of a loss and/or missing property," without the qualifier of human error or actual theft.

The same memo said the August 1, 1990, memo "is no longer effective," and that all theft reports should not go "to records," but be "routed directly to Assistant Chief Cempa."

Cempa said this memo was to further improve the accountability of university thefts. He said the inventory counts done by university departments are done on an annual basis, and he wanted to make sure that items accounted for in a previous year were not reported as stolen in the current year.

He said items reported stolen that were accounted for in the previous year's inventory are generally the items actually present and unaccounted for due to human error, not theft.

"What I wanted to do was make sure that (UHPD) didn't revert back to writing wholesale (theft reports)," Cempa said. "Was the item on last year's inventory? We need to ascertain whether the item was on last year's inventory; if not, then it was theft."

In a Sample Exit Interview, dated Feb. 4, 1983, a departing Physical Plant carpenter outlines his disgruntlement with alleged theft in the Physical Plant.

The former employee writes in the standard form filled out by departing employees of a "climate of fear" initiated by Physical Plant administrators, of which Postel is mentioned by name.

The employee wrote: "When a craftsman sees these same policy-makers/enforcers carrying tools and materials to their private vehicles for use on their outside contracting jobs, it is hard for him to believe that the rule against such activity is really valid."

 

(MORE)

King's suit names Postel, Thomas Wray, assistant director of the Physical Plant; Herbert Collier, executive director of the Physical Plant; and Robert Scott, mechanical maintenance foreman, as defendants.

The suit contains a long list of sensational allegations, including criminal activity, death threats and gross occupational harassment, and is asking for more than $1 million in punitive damages. It will be heard in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas in Houston, Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt presiding.

A May 7 docket call is scheduled for the suit, which will put it on a 24-hour-call basis for a pending trial date, said Nancy Footer, assistant university counsel.

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POLICE RECOMMEND CONSTANT AWARENESS

BY MEAGAN MCGOVERN

DAILY COUGAR STAFF

Despite the recent April 14 drive-by shooting incident on campus, UH police say violent crimes on campus aren't common.

Violent crime is a large-enough threat, however, for students to be aware of the proper precautions against it, UHPD Lt. Brad Wigtil said.

"When people, places or things just don't seem right, that's the time to call UHPD," not after a crime has occurred, Wigtil said.

An arrest was made Sunday in a drive-by shooting that happened in UH parking lot 5C. Wigtil said he thinks this was "an isolated incident," but students should still be wary.

"We don't have many crimes against people. This was our first full-blown shooting that I can remember," Wigtil said.

He said the most common crime on campus is theft.

"In the last two or three weeks, we've had an increase in vehicle theft," Wigtil said. "We've also had people stealing hubcaps, so we have more surveillance in the parking lots to try to deal with it."

He said awareness is a key factor in being safe.

"Students get so wrapped up in what they're doing that an 18-foot-tall gorilla could be behind them, and they don't notice it because they're thinking about a research paper or a test the next day."

Awareness simply means that students should not put themselves in a situation where they're not comfortable, Wigtil said.

"A lot of students see things that they don't think are normal, or someone who looks like he doesn't belong on campus, and yet they don't do anything about it." Wigtil said students, faculty and staff shouldn't think UHPD would be bothered by calls reporting suspicious activity.

"We'd love to get calls like that. It would make our job easier. That's why we have call-boxes.

"There are a lot of reasons people don't call -- they don't want to be embarrassed if they're wrong; they think it's a hassle, but students have to get involved if they want to be safe.

"The way Texas law breaks down, we do have the authority to check people out on campus, to make sure they have legitimate business. Students can help us do our job by letting us know if they see anyone suspicious," Wigtil said.

Prevention is also an important part of avoiding crime, from not leaving textbooks unattended to not walking in dark parking lots alone, Wigtil said.

"If students just pay a little more attention to intuition and instinct, we'll do a better job of making the campus a safer place."

Houston Police Officer Al Lotz, HPD Westside Command station, agrees with Wigtil about awareness. Lotz, who works with HPD Asian Gang Detail, helped arrest Luat Ha, the 21-year-old suspect in the recent UH drive-by shooting.

"Too many people have their heads in the dirt and don't know what's going on," he said, "but bullets have no conscience.

"You have to pay attention to what's going on around you. Students feel secure that nothing will ever happen to them on campus and have a lackadaisical attitude. They figure `Who's gonna bother me?'

"Students don't realize that they can be sucked up by something real easy," Lotz said. "There are people out there waiting for the opportunity to hurt you. The trick is not to give them a chance."

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MORE TO SEE AT WORLDFEST

BY HEATHER MCLATCHIE

CONTRIBUTING WRITER

WorldFest Houston continues tonight with two independent, American offerings. At 7 p.m. at the Greenway theater rather offbeat films begin.

The first, High Strung, features a day in the life of a burned-out author of children's literature. Thane Furrows, played ingratiatingly to the letter by stand-up comedian Steve Oedekerk, begins the day annoyed at the world, and the film follows his biting comments about everything from cereal to insurance salesmen to restaurants.

If for no other reason, this film is entertaining due to the cameo appearance of In Living Color's Jim Carrey as Death. Yes, that's right, Death.

The other 7 p.m. film is the latest release from cutting-edge filmmaker Jim (Stranger Than Paradise) Jarmusch. Written, produced and directed by Jarmusch, Night on Earth explores the stories of five different cabbies and their charges in five international cities.

The film's cast boasts stars Winona Ryder, Gena Rowlands, Rosie Perez (White Men Can't Jump) and Armin Mueller-Stahl (Avalon).

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UH OKAYS NEW INSURER DESPITE LACK OF DETAILS

BY CROSBY KING

DAILY COUGAR STAFF

Although the new campus insurance service will probably offer lower rates than the current system, some employees said the process of change has been rocky.

The Chancellor's Executive Cabinet voted April 13 to have UH employees join the Employees' Retirement System after a recommendation by the UH System Fringe Benefits Committee.

ERS does not yet know what the premium amounts for group members will be. According to a memo released by Saundra Wiley, UH System director for benefits, policy and planning, ERS could not provide cost information before April 29.

Making the decision to join the system without all pertinent data disturbed some UH employees, but all faculty members who were interviewed said the university made the right move.

"To make any other decision would have been to cut off our noses to spite our face," HFAC professor John Bernard said.

"If the rates come out next month, or this month," he said, "and we learn the rates for Sanus (one of the current insurers) are going to be higher for ERS than they would have been for us, then people will just go bananas.

"But there's no chance of that happening. It's unfortunate that it didn't go exactly the way we liked, that we didn't see exactly what the premiums were going to be before we said `yes' or `no.' "

Bernard said it would be "inconceivable" that the rates would increase with ERS because UH would belong to a larger pool of members than it does now.

Law Professor Stephen Huber agreed, saying knowledge of the precise rates is not essential to the university's well-being. But he admitted that the main disadvantage of the new system is UH's lack of control.

UH cannot switch to a different insurer without an act of legislation.

"There was no mix-and-match," Huber said. "We couldn't design a perfect system -- either we go with our own group or ERS. If we went by ourselves, we're a small group in a high-cost area."

UH employees will join a membership of 220,000. With the larger group, Huber said, ERS will offer a "bigger smorgasbord" of options, such as a choice of higher values of disability insurance.

Huber acknowledged ERS's age-rated life insurance may leave some older members unhappy, but he said a constant premium is outdated.

"On balance, that's a mistake (to keep a constant rate for all members)," he said. "Older people are more likely to die than younger people, so they ought to pay a higher rate. Speaking as one who's getting toward the older end of things, that's not a self-serving declaration."

Ernst Leiss, head of the Faculty Senate's faculty affairs committee, called the process of joining ERS a "Catch-22" because ERS couldn't provide all necessary information to UH before the school's employees became members.

"The issue was the way that the bureaucracy was playing cat-and-mouse with us," he said. "I am not going to sit still when somebody tells me, `Well, we're going to give you the information a day before deadline, but if you wait until the deadline we gave you, then we won't be able to provide you with any service.'"

Leiss agreed that blended (equal) rates for life insurance were rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

"That's a battle that would be lost one way or another," he said.

Craig Ness, a member of the UH Fringe Benefits Committee, said UH had to switch insurers because current contributions by the state haven't matched the rising costs of health care.

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PEARL JAM SHOW SOLD OUT

BY JENNIFER SORUFKA

DAILY COUGAR STAFF

Pearl Jam. PEARL JAM. PEARL JAM!...and brother Seattle grunge band Soundgarden are coming to the Unicorn Thursday night.

But I have some bad news, and some really bad news. The bad news is that Soundgarden is headlining, and Pearl Jam is opening. Warped, ain't it? I think that in the see-saw of music, Pearl Jam far outweighs Soundgarden, but what the heck, I'll stick around for the second act just for kicks, anyway.

The really bad news is that the show has been sold out for a very long time, and for those of us who do have tickets, there is the wicked satisfaction that we have something other people want. We get to see Eddie Vedder (the lead singer for Pearl Jam) grace the stage, pouring his emotions into the crowd.

For those of you who saw them headline at the Vatican or open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, you know exactly what I'm talking about -- that intense energy that brings Eddie into the crowd and up the rafters.

Then comes Soundgarden, one of the originators of the Seattle grunge trend. Singer Chris Cornell is glad the band started out small and grew from there.

"Our music isn't instantly user-friendly, which I think is definitely a good thing," he said.

Altogether, the Pearl Jam/Soundgarden combination should be an invigorating one.

If I were reading this without a ticket in my hand, I'd be calling up my local scalper real quick like.

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WATT SLAMS THE 'MTV I.V.'

BY SALLY POUNCY

DAILY COUGAR STAFF

"Young people should not be doing lazy rock," said Mike Watt, bass player for the punk-rock group fIREHOSE.

Watts blames MTV for the lethargic approach young bands are taking towards music. "I see a lot of bands very infleunced by it (MTV). They get hooked up to the MTV I.V. and never develop their own sound," he said.

He claims the old punk stylehad advantages over new music. "We had to go into the little clubs and find out for ourselves what was good. We didn't have it coming over the TV."

"People want new sounds," he said. "It'skind of funny to ask a 35-year-old guy to play new music. It's not new music; I've been doing this for a long time."

"My advice for young bands is to shut off the MTV and try to find your own sound." Watt said.

Six years ago, Watt's band, The Minutemen, broke up after the death of a member, leaving him without a band. It wasn't until a fan of The Minutemen called Watt at his home in San Pedro, Calif., that the idea of forming a new band even entered his head.

The fan asked if he was auditioning guitar players for his new band, and Watt said no. However, the two kept on talking, and eventually, the fan ended up meeting with Watt. Two months later, fIREHOSE played its first live show.

Ed Crawford, now the guitar player for fIREHOSE, was the fan on the telephone who helped get the band started. Contrary to popular belief that Watt taught Crawford how to play the guitar, Crawford said, "Mike didn't teach me shit! I was playing guitar a long time before I met him."

Even though it may seem like there is some discourse among the members, Crawford said they are like a family, and, like most families, "We fight a lot."

However, Crawford "just ignores" Watt, and they get along fine.

fIREHOSE has been together for roughly six years and managed to be signed by the record industry giant Columbia Records.

"We call this the Low Man on the Totem Pole Tour because that is what we are in the Columbia scheme of things. We are definitely way down on the bottom. I mean, this is the same label as Bruce Springsteen and other huge, huge acts," Crawford said.

Although they have a big label behind them, the band members are not fooling themselves into thinking they have made it all the way. "Some people think that it's the end of the rainbow (to be signed by a label); it is just a whole new set of problems. That's why we keep things very much in our hands."

"When Mike negotiated our contract, he was very careful to make sure we had a great deal of control over what we do, and what we put out. He has seen friends of his who take the plunge (sign with a label) and find out, after the fact, some of the problems. That is why we are a little more protected than the average band."

"They (Columbia) can't touch, remix or change our music, or the cover art. They can't spand any money without asking us," Crawford said.

However, he said he is not completely satisfied with where they are now. "I want us to keep growing, get a little bigger."

But, he said, they don't want to end up playing arena shows. "That (arena shows) is no way to hear a show. It takes away from the music. You lose touch with what you're doing and with people," he said.

The only thing Crawford is satisfied with is the money. He claims he "has it made" with fIREHOSE, meaning he doesn't have to have another job in order to afford being in a band.

"I make a living doing what I'm doing, a very good living. I make more money than any of my friends from back in the old days. They are working straight jobs with four-year degrees. I have nothing to complain about. I haven't had a job since we started the band.

"We make most of our money touring. Very little of it comes from royalties. We are very fortunate to have a good fan base."

"The Minutemen went for 10 years, and we kept a lot of those fans. We take our fans very, very seriously," Crawford said.

Lazy rock is definitely not something fIREHOSE puts out. They are loud, hard-driving punk rocker4s who know how to pack in a crowd.

Eben though Crawford wants the band to get a little bigger, he vehemently concluded his thoughts with: "We don't wantto be as big as U2."

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