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FEBRUARY 22, 2010

OPINION

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When the Punishment Doesn’t Fit the Crime

Dear Editor,

On the night of Saturday, January 23rd, a party was held in and around Urania. During the course of that party, a security guard who was investigating the party was assaulted by a cowardly member of our community who threw cans of beer at her. As an immediate consequence of that crime, the party was dispersed by the security guards. However, as a further consequence, Matt Johnston has also chosen to fine every resident of Urania twenty-five dollars for a supposed sleep-study violation, regardless of their level of involvement with that party (or even attendance of). I ask all of you who respect this community to politely inform Mr. Johnston that his fine is unnecessary, unjust, and undermines our shared sense of community. When I learned of the fine, I went to talk to Mr. Johnston in his office on the morning of Thursday, January 28th. He informed me that he was holding all of the residents of Urania culpable under the sleep-study rule not because we may have planned or attended the party, but because we possessed knowledge of the party. That is to say, the fact that we did not inform anyone in authority about the party or request to the other residents in the dorm that it not be held there

is, in Mr. Johnston’s view, a reason to hold every resident of the dormitory as equally culpable in the sleep-study violation. This is an unjust judgment, an affront to the residents of Urania, and an outrage against the community as a whole. The rationale given to me by Mr. Johnston for this fine is that the party was a violation of the sleep-study rule. However, I live on the bottom floor of Urania in room 13 – the door that is almost directly across the hallway from the front door of the dormitory. Of anyone, I had the most exposure to noise. In my judgment, it was no more than a minor nuisance, and not a burdensome intrusion upon my ears. In fact, it is my habit to study in my room. The noise from the party that night did not disturb my study at all. Furthermore, as anyone who knows me will attest, I have no interest in parties, either in terms of attending them or opposing them. I am a tolerant person, and I do not begrudge other people their right to have a good time and to take whatever actions the law provides them the right to take, such as throwing a party which did not disturb me on a Saturday night. However, in this instance, my tolerance has resulted in my being unjustly fined. I suspect that there was no formal noise complaint lodged by any student, and even the official story told by

Mr. Johnston in his letter to the Urania residents explaining why we are being fined suggests that there was not. In any event, it was the testimony of my RA that the security officers were exiting the building after requesting that the party quiet down when they were assaulted, and this is corroborated by the official story in Mr. Johnston’s letter. The fact that they were leaving the building indicates that they were satisfied that the party would comply with their request. Therefore, it is wrong to hold that the sleep-study rule was being violated: the relevant authorities were satisfied that the party would reduce its noise level. The assault on the officer interrupted the party’s ability to comply with the security officers’ instructions. However, prior to that, the actions of the officers indicate that they believed that the party-goers would act in good faith and reduce their noise level. Thus, the only offense which anyone can be properly said to be guilty of is the crime of assault, which logic dictates must have been committed by someone physically present at the party. If this fine is to be taken as a precedent, I ask all members of the College to ask themselves: do you want to be a part of a community where the mere knowledge of a future event – an event to which you have no objection, either morally or in terms of the social

Banks and Investment Banks By Noah Meek

Recently, Barack Obama has thrown his support behind a proposal of former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker that would seek to limit the kinds of financial activities that commercial banks could perform. Among these restrictions, commercial banks, which often invest money on the behalf of their clients, would be prohibited from investing money from their own accounts as well. While this proposal would certainly reduce the profitability of many financial businesses, given the present arrangement of the financial industry it would likely add a degree of stability to that industry and by extension to the rest of the economy. Before explaining the merits of Volcker’s proposal, we must first understand some things about banks as they exist today. Commercial banks are in essence “privileged” businesses because the government has deemed it unacceptable for individuals to lose their deposits due to a bank failure. In protecting and ensuring the depositors of commercial banks, the government also necessarily protects the banks that hold the accounts of depositors because depositors

will no longer choose between banks based on their financial solvency. One could look at it this way: because if a bank burns down the depositors are still guaranteed their money by the government, depositors will not concern themselves with whether or not their banks have well built structures. In choosing between two banks, they will primarily concern themselves with the fees, interest rates, and services of those banks. A bank that only builds sturdy fire-proof structures will have higher costs and will have to charge higher fees or give their depositors a lower rate of interest, and so the bank with shoddier structures will have a competitive advantage over banks with solid structures as long as the government equally guarantees the depositors of both banks. All of the money saved by banks with cheaper structures can be passed on to depositors and investors. Similarly, banks that engage in riskier investments with their holdings will be able to offer higher interest rates to depositors and greater profits to investors than banks that invest more conservatively. Consumers will look at two banks, see that their depos-

its are equally guaranteed in both, and put their money in the one that offers the higher interest rate and the lower fees. So as things are presently arranged, sound banking is often bad for business. Now a bank can fail for mismanaging its own money just as easily as it can fail for mismanaging its depositors’ money. And while banks have some duty to make sure that they do not malinvest their depositors’ money, they will feel free to invest their own money with whatever degree of risk they care to take. If the banks’ investments go bad, it will jeopardize the accounts of their depositors and the government will feel compelled to step in and at the least guarantee the accounts of the depositors and it may even decide to “bail out” the bank. By restricting commercial banks’ ability to invest on their own behalf, Volcker’s proposal, now backed by President Obama, would reduce the incentives that banks have to engage in the kinds of risky investment activities that lead to the present economic crisis. Noah Meek is a Senior at St. John’s College, Santa Fe. He can be reached at nemeek@sjcsf.edu

Yoga in Santa Fe

(Q & A: Kirn Khalsa, Santa Fe Yoga Teacher, continued from Page 3) to include anything about yourself or your other instructors, feel free to advertise yourselves. Also, you used to teach kundalini yoga at St. Johns? Please visit www.yogasantafe.com for more info about the center, the schedule and all the teachers. I have been doing yoga since 1975 and teaching for over 30 years. Teaching at your college was the same for me as teaching any other class. Yoga Santa Fe has been in operation since 2004.

That’s fine. Your answers to the questions about virtue and politics were very good, by the way. We study the history of Western civilization here and the Greek city states were very... “group consciousness”. Athenians knew they were Athenians and Spartans knew they were Spartans, for example. Working through the implications of “group consciousness” is a big part of what philosophy in the West is about. The transitions

from one level to another are not always smooth. The Athenians killed Socrates for “corrupting the youth”, or for, one might say, trying to lead them out of the cave of group consciousness into the light of universal consciousness. On the other hand, group consciousness may be necessary for growing beyond selfish, individual consciousness, so that maybe a group consciousness ought to be protected. Of course, these days we don’t protect it by killing troublemakers. These days we have corporations and lawyers and PR people, and everyone likes to posture and threaten to sue each other... but I wonder if our age is really so different from there’s. Human nature will always tend to seek polarity and differences. Hence a practice to find that middle path, the space between the breaths is so powerful. Andrew Rizzardo is a Junior at St. John’s College, Santa Fe. He can be reached at asrizzardo@sjcsf. edu

contract – may make you, in the eyes of Mr. Johnston, party to a conspiracy regardless of your good character? Do you want to be a part of a community where a member can be held culpable for actions that they had no part in? Do you want to be a part of a community which invents offenses with which to persecute its members? By not resisting an unjust act by an authority, you not only legitimize the injustice but also prostitute your dignity as a human being. I do not believe that Mr. Johnston is a bad person; quite the opposite. He is a good man who, in the heat of the circumstances, made a bad decision. This fine is an unjust one, an affront against my good name, and an affront against the good names of the others in Urania who did not participate in the party or have any role in its planning. I will not pay the fine under any circumstance. I encourage the other residents of Urania to also refuse to pay. Finally, I reiterate my appeal at the beginning of this letter: I call upon all members of this community who believe that Mr. Johnston is in the wrong on this issue to contact him and politely register your objection. Alex Wood, ’11

How Hollywood Lost Its Way An Examination of Modern Movies By Elaine Fortuna When the last issue of The Moon issue came out in December, I was approached by one of my classmates, who asked me if it was possible for me to write a good review next time. I answered that I had no control over that, as it all depended whether the movie I saw was good or bad. But she had a point; all of my reviews for The Moon have been negative. And since February is generally the month of awful movies, I’ve decided to explore the reason for my negativity in lieu of a review. The reason is a fairly simple one; most modern movies are crap. Hollywood is afraid of change. They find a formula that gets them money, and they exploit it again and again until they run it to the ground. That’s why there have been so many comic book movies and slasher sequels: take the same basic formula, tweak it slightly, add superheroics/gore, and bingo! Box-office gold! If that’s too strenuous for them, they can always adapt an old classic for the modern day, banking on the nostalgia factor. Favorite books, TV shows, or video games are all fair game for them. And now there’s a new trend; if it didn’t work the first time, we’ll make it darker and try again! They call it a “reboot”, although the better name would be “Green Screen of Death”. Darker doesn’t necessarily mean better. A grim and gritty James Bond has less appeal than his original, devil-may-care incarnation. Another problem is the change in Hollywood’s priorities. When special effects were limited to claymation, miniatures, and wires, filmmakers put more efforts into their scripts, so that the story would carry the movie. Now, it’s all about spectacle, and since everyone’s doing it now, it’s starting to get boring. And if the special effects aren’t awesome enough, people are going to notice that your script has plot holes big enough to

fly the Enterprise through (yes, I’m looking at you, Star Trek. Was your script written by fanboys?) But when Hollywood does concentrate on the script, the finished product is a message film, which is guaranteed to a) get them nominated for an Oscar, b) alienate half or more of the audience, or c) both. There Will Be Blood probably wouldn’t have done as well if people hadn’t thought it somehow related to Bush and the Iraq war. The real writing “geniuses” are the ones who slip their messages into supposedly innocuous family fun. Iron Man spends most of the movie driving home the point that weapons manufacturers are bad, and that’s why we’re having trouble in the Middle East (the rest of the film just recycles super-hero movie clichés), while Wall-E is an environmental Public Service Announcement hidden behind a cute robot. People paid money to relax and forget real life for two hours; they don’t want to be confronted with this sort of thing. This is not to say that Hollywood should just make mindless action movies, or stupid comedies that rely too much on toilet humor. Part of the problem is that Hollywood assumes that the audience members are idiots, so they go with things they think will be crowd pleasing (sex, explosions, oneliners), and don’t try to make the audience think. Watchmen and (two modern films I actually like) are films that have depth; you feel it, even if you can’t put it into words. Both films, you’ll notice, have more scenes featuring people talking than actual superheroics. In the Golden Age of movies (the 30’s and 40’s), some of the best movies consisted of nothing but people talking. But somewhere along the line, Hollywood forgot that lesson. I can only hope, for everyone’s sakes, that they remember it again. Elaine Fortuna is a Junior at St. John’s College, Santa Fe. She can be reached at etfortuna@sjcsf.edu

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