SBA commends Fluke, asks Georgetown to explain inconsistent contraception policies

The “Equal Healthcare Resolution” passed without opposition at the Feb. 28 meeting of the SBA House of Delegates. Co-sponsored by Elizabeth Hira (2L), Daniel Smith (1L), Edward Williams (1L), and Erin Dexter (1L), the resolution commends 3L Sandra Fluke and asks Law Center Administration to explain “the inconsistency and apparent discrimination” in University policy on contraception. The resolution was also supported by non-SBA student groups Law Students for Reproductive Justice, the Women’s Legal Alliance, and the Women of Color Collective.

(The full text of the resolution is attached to the end of this post.)

The all male panel at the hearing. This photo went viral with the caption, “Where are the women?”Fluke was thrust into the national spotlight when Congressman Darryl Issa (R-CA) refused to allow her to testify at a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on religious liberty and the proposed HHS contraception rule. Congressman Issa said that Fluke was not “appropriate or qualified” because the hearing was on religious freedom. Whatever merit his objection may have had, the optics of an all male panel discussing women’s healthcare became the headline.

The following week, Fluke delivered her testimony as the sole witness at an unofficial hearing of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee.

In commending Fluke, the SBA resolution states that she has “the widespread support of the GULC student body.”

“Clarification” requested

The resolution calls on the Administration to “to publicly clarify by both ‘faith and reason’ the inconsistency and apparent discrimination in the institutional stance towards faculty and students regarding health insurance coverage for contraception.”

The “inconsistency” referred to is based on a comparison of the healthcare offered to University employees and that provided to students. “[C]ontraceptive coverage is an already available and subsidized option to faculty and staff” while the student health plan excludes coverage for contraception and is “unsubsidized.” As evidence, the resolution cites an employee health insurance policy document, obtained independently by the Law Weekly, that expressly lists coverage for “contraceptive drugs and devices.” 

The language on “faith and reason” comes from the “Mission Statement of the Georgetown University Jesuits” (emphasis added):

We witness to the compatibility of faith and reason, work to extend knowledge and cultivate a University community that reflects the conviction that the good life is a life lived generously in the service of others.

The resolution further notes that “77% of other Jesuit/Catholic” law schools in the U.S. News top 100 provide coverage for contraception.

In perhaps the most pointed section, Georgetown Law’s Dean William Treanor is specifically mentioned in connection with Fordham Law, another Jesuit school that includes coverage for contraception in its student health plan. Treanor was dean of Fordham Law until coming to Georgetown this past fall. Fordham University bills itself as “the Jesuit University of New York.”

Debate on the floor

Several SBA delegates spoke in support of the resolution, including SBA President Elizabeth Farrar. “For me it was very instructive,” said Farrar, “to learn that our law school is out of sync with more than three-fourths of other Jesuit law schools [in the top 100]. I think that if our policy on contraception is out of line with what seems to be the prevailing norm then that’s something that we are justified in asking for more information on.”

George Chipev, 3L, who also attended Georgetown for his undergraduate studies, pointed out that this debate affects students at main campus as well. At the Law Center, said Chipev, “at least we have the benefit of being in the city. There [on the main campus] … students can’t buy condoms within 10-minutes walking distance. I mention condoms to stress that this is an obvious issue on main campus — not to frame the debate around condoms… . People aren’t aware of what the policies are before they come to this school.” Finishing his speech, Chipev called attention to the unique atmosphere created by the attention created by Fluke’s testimony: “We haven’t had a moment to do this before. This is the moment to do it.”

The resolution passed with overwhelming support. There were no votes opposed and only two abstentions.

How school administration will respond remains to be seen.

Disclosure: The author of this article is a current SBA delegate and voted in favor of the resolution.

Outlaw: 9th Circuit victory … or not?

Outlaw writers English and Liao argue that those in the LGBTQ rights movement should be cautiously optimistic about the 9th Circuit ruling. Photo courtesy Robin English, 2L & Frank Liao, 3L

Unless you’ve been in a cave with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears, you’ve probably heard that California’s Proposition 8, which stripped from the state’s constitution the right of same-sex couples to marry, was struck down in Perry v. Brown.

The decision was narrow as the 9th Circuit framed the case as an application of Romer v. Evans that seems fairly particular to the circumstances of California. The legal blogs are already aflutter with speculation whether such a framing means the Supreme Court will grant or deny certiorari, and what the decision really means.  Does it mean that once a state grants same-sex marriage, it cannot be taken away?

Though the jury is out as to the exact implications of the opinion, the decision has already had numerous political implications. To solicit the socially conservative vote, GOP candidates have condemned it. Newt Gingrich said, “[w]ith today’s decision on marriage by the Ninth Circuit…more Americans are being exposed to the radical overreach of federal judges and their continued assault on the Judeo-Christian foundations of the United States.”

Perhaps, even more concerning is front-runner Mitt Romney’s response: “Today unelected judges cast aside the will of the people of California who voted to protect traditional marriage. This decision does not end this fight, and I expect it to go to the Supreme Court. That prospect underscores the vital importance of this election and the movement to preserve our values. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and as president, I will protect traditional marriage and appoint judges who interpret the Constitution as it is written and not according to their own politics and prejudices.”

While the surging Rick Santorum believes the decision “is another in a long line of radical activist rulings by this rogue circuit—and it is precisely why I have called for that circuit to be abolished and split up. Marriage is defined and has always been defined as ‘one man and one woman.’”

As the candidates try to keep LGBTQ Americans second-class citizens, the states are struggling to make their opinions known before the issue reaches the Supreme Court. Less than two weeks after the Perry decision, Maryland and New Jersey voted on gay marriage legislation.

On Thursday, Feb. 16th, New Jersey passed legislation that legalized same-sex marriage, which was vetoed as promised by Governor Chris Christie. The vote in Maryland was more contentious as clergy members opposed the same-sex marriage bill. A former GULC SBA President, Sam Arora, voted against the measure despite lobbying by Outlaw to persuade him to vote in favor of the legislation.

But why the sudden movement by states now when the first state to allow gay marriage, Massachusetts, enacted legislation eight years ago? Perhaps the states want to influence the Supreme Court with their decisions, hoping it will take heed of the changing tides. If Perry really means that marriage cannot be revoked once granted, then politicians might not need to fear the repercussions of their votes—if you can’t change that law, why bother voting out the guy who voted for it? That might seem like a great victory, but how much will that help the gay marriage movement?

Even if Perry is read narrowly, the decision is still a victory because it changes the rules of the game. The opinion establishes that once the right is given it cannot be taken away. Advocates of marriage equality only need to break the barrier of inequality once to achieve the equality that we deserve. Well, once in every state. We welcome certiorari for the opportunity to make this a rule across the nation.

Yet we wonder whether such a decision will make the fight in each state more or less difficult. If states are aware that the decision they make on gay marriage will be forever solidified, perhaps swing votes will be more difficult to acquire. On the other hand the LGBTQ movement will be able to focus their resources in areas where same-sex marriage is possible without the fear of losing rights we may achieve at any given moment.

Perry is history unfolding before our very eyes, but the LGBTQ rights movement exists because these “political” decisions have huge impacts on people’s lives. When LGBTQ Americans cross state lines, their marriage may not be recognized. They might have no right to visit their loved one in the hospital if the worst should happen, or face unsympathetic law enforcement if the victim of a hate crime.

We fight because of the real world implications, implications that go beyond just the LGBTQ community. Many of your LGBTQ colleagues are making decisions about where to live and work based on how the laws of a given state will treat them; such laws even affect a state’s ability to attract a talented workforce! Amidst all the politics though, remember that real people are asking for marriage not only because it is an outward expression of love, but also because it is a means of ensuring that your loved one is cared and provided for. The practical implications and burdens of so much uncertainty must not be forgotten while our federal and state politicians wage a political war armed with the lives of our LGBTQ peoples.

Even though the story isn’t over yet, the 9th Circuit’s decision was interestingly—to borrow a line from Romer—at once newsworthy and not newsworthy. It was undoubtedly a newsworthy victory, even if it ends up only a small one. But at the same time the youngest Americans can’t fathom why it was newsworthy.

To many of us, the answer to the question of same-sex marriage is obvious and we were a little mortified that the issue is contentious enough to make the decision news. As the LGBTQ rights movement continues forward, it’s comforting to see signs like that show us we’re on the right track.

Robin English, 2L,is Academic Chair for Outlaw. She can be reached at

Zhang elected new SBA president

Shaun Zhang, 2L – SBA President-ElectAfter a run-off election, that included two-way races for President, Day Vice President and 3L Delegate positions, the Executive Board of the Student Bar Association has been decided.

With almost 64 percent of the vote, Shaun Zhang, 2L, won the election for SBA President over former SBA Treasurer Darryl Hazelwood, 2L, who resigned his post earlier this year for family reasons.  Running on a platform of past SBA accomplishments and increasing interaction between students, faculty and student groups, Zhang handily pulled away from his competitor after an initial round of voting that separated the 2 candidates by only 3 votes.

In a message to the Law Weekly, Zhang said he appreciates everyone’s support and looks forward to serving as SBA President.

Because Zhang was elected president and Hazelwood did not run for a delegate seat, both 3L candidates in the run-off were awarded seats in SBA. Edward Williams, 1L, defeated Alexis Kellert, 1L, with 55 percent of the votes to win the election for SBA Day Vice President.

The 2012-2013 Student Bar Association offcers are listed below:


Shaun Zhang, 2L


Edward Williams, 1L


Milla Savelieff, 3E


Parker Schnell, 1L


Erin Dexter, 1L


Andrew Adelman
Shahzadi Ahmed
Alex Bergians
Ashley Binetti
Jake Itzkowitz
Alexis Kellert 
Tiffany Li
Jessica Montello
Daniel Smith
Nicole Smith


Kukui Claydon
Allyson Poulos


Zach Bench
Zac Garthe
Elizabeth Hira
Arthur Kim
Kristin Leighton
Varoon Modak
Christopher Morgan-Riess
Julia Sferlazzo
Lauren Sugarman
Daniel Tavakoli


Anthony Campau
Claire Frezza


Chad Seibel


Alexa Sendukas 

GULC alum Sen. Robert Zirkin asked to lead on capital punishment

by Jack Muse, 1L

Last week, Senator Robert Zirkin joined twenty-three of his colleagues in the Maryland Senate on the right side of history. His critical support in the passage of a bill to legalize gay marriage is representative of the commitment to justice that Zirkin has demonstrated since graduating from the Law Center in 1998. Before the legislative session ends on April 9, Zirkin will have another chance to place Maryland on the right side of history and be the type of principled leader this community strives to produce.

Maryland is one of nine states currently deliberating legislation that would outlaw capital punishment. Senator Zirkin sits on the Judicial Proceedings Committee where he is part of the 6-5 split opposed to advancing the bill to a full vote on the Senate floor. Governor Martin O’Malley backs the proposed repeal, and there is broad support for ending the death penalty amongst both legislators and the Maryland public. It is an oversimplification to say that Zirkin controls whether or not state executions continue in Maryland, but he is in a unique position of influence on the matter.

In part, that influence derives from past leadership he has shown in limiting the use and availability of capital punishment. A previous effort to repeal the death penalty in 2009 could have produced disastrous results if Zirkin hadn’t noticed and defeated an amendment that would have allowed death sentences in cases relying on eye-witness testimony. Instead, Zirkin crafted a compromise that left Maryland with one of the nation’s most restrictive capital punishment statutes.

Zirkin’s provision forbids using capital punishment except in cases where there is DNA evidence, a videotaped interrogation and confession, or video conclusively linking the defendant to the crime. Since its implementation, the state has only attempted to secure a death sentence in a lone case. Opponents of capital punishment should applaud the measure. It imposes the most stringent regulation available to ensure that Maryland will never face the moral shame of posthumously exonerating an innocent man. Unfortunately, neither these precautions nor any other measure can foreclose this possibility.

States have struggled in vain to come up with the so-called “Gold Standard” of death penalty statutes. The revolution in DNA testing and the horrifying parade of freed death row inmates it produced left no choice but to grapple with an imperfect system. The assumption is that the practice is flawed, but not fatally so; that the right tweaks can provide for a sparsely used penalty reserved for only the most shocking and perverse crimes. As capital punishment retains popular (but shrinking) national support, it is a noble mission. It is also a fool’s errand.

Arguments on both sides have the force of moral righteousness. Statistics can be harnessed to strike and expose the convictions of proponents and opponents alike. It is impossible to prove whether the capital punishment regime works or how that success should be defined. There is, however, one unequivocal fact underlying the debate. It is the same fact on which our entire judicial system is predicated: human beings make mistakes.

DNA evidence is only as infallible as the lab technician who tests the sample. A videotaped confession is only as strong as the man giving it. Videotape of a crime is conclusive only so far as the perception of 12 men and women who were not there. Doubt will remain. Until that doubt can be erased, the death penalty cannot exist without the possibility that it will be employed by the government in the murder of an innocent man. No amount of procedural sureties or increased law enforcement funding can alter this reality.

Reasonable minds can differ on whether or not this risk is an acceptable one. There is increasing recognition within state legislatures, the Supreme Court, and the general public, however, that it is a question that must be addressed.

As concerns about its application mounted, Illinois placed a moratorium on the death penalty to study its use before becoming the 16th state to abolish the practice last March. Upon signature of the bill, Governor Pat Quinn stated that “it is impossible to devise a system that is consistent, that is free of discrimination on the basis of race, geography or economic circumstance, and that always gets it right.”

Over the last decade, the Supreme Court has chipped away at its Constitutional boundaries by prohibiting the execution of juveniles and the mentally deficient and allowing new trials when presented with evidence of racial bias on juries. In January, the Court decided 7-2 in favor of reopening the proceedings of an Alabama man who lost his opportunity to appeal in what Justice Alito called a “veritable perfect storm of misfortune.” Among other elements, the case involved a disinterested, borderline hostile public defender and Sullivan Cromwell associates who did not receive notice of their client’s appeal because they had left the firm without providing a forwarding address. The Court was unwilling to allow the process to move forward when presented with a case documenting the convoluted tragedy of errors that is all too familiar in death penalty litigation.

And no recent event has cast a harsher spotlight on the spectacle of executing someone in the face of overwhelming ambiguity than the saga of Troy Davis. In the frantic, harrowing days leading up to his death, the public saw ugly truths about the system laid bare.’s year-end list of the events generating the most activity on Twitter ranked Davis’ execution second, ahead of the deaths of both Osama bin Laden and Steve Jobs.

In short, the more this country and its institutions are faced with the unpleasant realities that must be tolerated for capital punishment to continue, the less willing we are to accept them. The most skilled legal minds can strive with the noblest of intentions to create a standard that makes this coexistence palatable, but they will inevitably fall short. The judicial system’s layers of checks and balances flow from a fundamental acknowledgment that human error and emotion can never be removed from the practice of law. The death penalty, with its brutal finality, is the only realm that does not comport with this understanding.

The push towards recognition of this failing is as inevitable as the march to marriage equality. It will happen in fits and starts and will be painful in its setbacks, but the final outcome is assured. The absurdities of discriminating on sexual preference simply do not hold up to continued exposure. The public may take time to come around, but it will. There is no turning back. It is a matter of when, not if. The use of capital punishment is no different in this regard. It will crumble under the weight of its own inherent, irreversible flaws.

Senator Zirkin has the opportunity to lead on this issue. He has the opportunity to be at the forefront of history and not wait for tragedy to spur the unavoidable reckoning with capital punishment. The Georgetown community should be honored to have advocates for justice like Robert Zirkin fighting in the public arena, but it must also be upfront in demanding that his fortitude does not waver. If you feel strongly, please write to Senator Zirkin at before his committee holds hearings on March 7 and ask him to allow a vote to repeal the death penalty. The time is now.

Jack Muse, 1L, is co-chair of the HRA death penalty committe. He can be reached at

Alumnus Arora votes against same-sex marriage in Md.

From Democratic activists are calling for Arora’s political head.
Last week, the Maryland legislature passed the Civil Marriage Protection Act, which would legalize same-sex marriage throughout the state. The bill is expected to be signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley shortly.

The bill barely cleared the House of Delegates with a 71-67 vote.  However, former Georgetown Law SBA President Sam Arora, L’10, voted against it. Though he ran for his house seat as supportive of marriage equality in 2010, Arora waivered after his election. On March 4, 2011, he released a statement saying that while he “personally” supported “civil unions,” not marriage, for same-sex couples, he had “come to the conclusion” that the issue should be decided by referendum.

The Georgetown chapter of Outlaw, the LGBTQ student group on campus, reached out to Delegate Arora to ask for his support (statement below).

Dear Assemblyman and Former GULC Student Sam Arora,

On behalf of Georgetown University Law Center’s LGBTQ student group, Outlaw, I am writing to urge you to vote YES to support Maryland Marriage Equality. Many of our students live and go on to work in Maryland (like yourself). We ask that for all those current and future Georgetown alumni that are LGTBQ, that you help ensure that they have the same right to marry granted to every other citizen in Maryland. In making your decision, please remember that your vote may determine where LGBT people can live, practice law, and feel like equal members of society. Separate but equal was not constitutional 50 years ago and it is not constitutional today.

All persons should be treated equally under the law. All persons should have the right to marry the person they love.

Please vote yes for marriage equality!

Thank you,

Blaire Baily
3L Co-Chair, Outlaw

After Arora’s ‘no’ vote on the bill, Democratic leaders are predicting the end of his political career.  His chief of staff, Joshua Lapidus, resigned in protest after the vote and blogger Jon Aravosis wrote that operatives are contemplating the best legal and political ways to end Arora’s career in politics. As of Sunday, Feb. 26, Arora has not released a statement to the press concerning his vote on Maryland’s same-sex marriage bill.

Justin Waddell, 2L, contributed to the reporting on this story.


Law Center moot court team takes first place in William & Mary tournament

L-R: Judge Eugene Siler (Court of Appeals for the 6th Cir.) congratulates Derek Webb (3L) and Rob Silverblatt (2L), Spong Invitational Moot Court Tournament champions. Photo by Derek Webb, Derek Webb, 3L & Staff

A Georgetown team took first-place honors in the Spong Invitational Moot Court Tournament at the William and Mary Law School. The field of 26 teams represented such schools as the University of Virginia, Cornell University, New York University, Temple University, and two-time defending champion Regent University. Georgetown University Law Center students Derek Webb, 3L, and Rob Silverblatt, 2L, won the longest-running constitutional law moot court tournament in the nation, which ran from Feb. 17 to 18.

The duo made it through two preliminary rounds, a quarterfinal round, a semifinal round, and a final round, each one hour in length, before an increasingly large panel of real judges from U.S. courts of appeals, federal district courts, and state supreme courts. The final round took place in the venerated Wren Building on the William and Mary campus, the College’s oldest building, where Thomas Jefferson and other founding figures like George Wythe regularly dined.

In keeping with the historic significance of the building, the large room  where final arguments where made, with its vaulted ceilings, tall windows, and large portraits of Queen Anne, Thomas Jefferson, and John Marshall , was illuminated primarily by small electric candles which adorned the counsel tables, the lectern, and the judges’ bench.  Nine judges, including Judge Barbara Keenan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and Judge Eugene Siler of the Sixth Circuit as well as members of the highest courts of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and Texas, presided over the final round to simulate the dynamic of a real Supreme Court argument.

In addition to being chosen as the overall tournament champions, Webb and Silverblatt also won the award for the best brief for the Respondent’s side.

Before law school, Webb earned a Ph.D. in political science at the University of Notre Dame, and Silverblatt, while an undergraduate at Tufts University, was an accomplished parliamentary debater.

This is the first time Georgetown students have advanced to the final round and won the Spong Invitational.


National Security Law Society hosts first event

by Alix Holtsclaw, 2L

The National Security Law Society, a new student organization on campus, held its first event on Thursday Feb. 23.   Nearly 30 students attended the event, a discussion with Professor David Koplow, Director of Georgetown’s National Security Law Center.

Professor Koplow also shared his perspective on how working in academia and government differ, such as the ability to work in-depth on a topic for a law review article versus the fast-paced and project-based work in government.

Prior to directing the clinic, Koplow took a two-year sabbatical to work as special counsel for arms control in the Department of Defense.

Students enjoyed the chance to ask questions about arms treaties, such as the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia and the United States’ perspective on the Ottawa Convention that bans the use of land mines. “It is invaluable to hear from someone who has personal experience creating new policy and new treaties,” said Max Warren, 1L.

After the lecture, Koplow followed the students to happy hour at the Billy Goat Tavern answering questions about their individual interests and career plans. Ya’ara Barnoon, 2L and NSLS President, was impressed by Koplow’s knowledge in the field of national security law and gauging students’ interest in the field.

“He really engaged with students during the event and even at our happy hour afterwards,” said Barnoon.  Barnoon also enjoyed seeing the work of the dedicated NSLS board members come together and the enthusiasm of the students who attended.

In addition to already established faculty scholarship, such as the work of the National Security Law Center, and national security-related courses, Georgetown also began offering an L.L.M. in National Security Law this academic year. “The depth and breadth of faculty research and experience means that students interested in this field are well-positioned to national security law,” said Allegra Funsten, 2L and NSLS vice president.  “The NSLS hopes to bridge the gap between faculty and students by organizing talks and other events.”

The NSLS’s next event will be a panel discussion on national security law issues in the 21st century. The panel will include professors and practitioners with a variety of backgrounds on Monday, March 12 at 4:00 p.m. in Gewirz 12.

Gilbert and Sullivan’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Photo by Austin Tice. The cast of “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” preview their production at Java Hut.

by Colin Finnegan, 2L

The Georgetown Gilbert and Sullivan Society performed Tom Stoppard’s absurdist drama Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead on February 15-18 in Hart Auditorium. The play was directed by Ben Leatham, with Jeffrey Asjes and Michael Johnson playing the respective title characters.

The leads, two minor courtiers in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, gradually and obliquely come to terms with the artifice of their lives as they approach their fate. The Player, who leads the acting troupe in Hamlet’s play-within-a-play, leads them to revelation as a sort of oracle. The metatheatrical script allows for literary in-jokes, but the play also ruminates on chance, language, art, life and death. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead does not so much break the fourth wall as erase it, but the effect is less a winking self-awareness than a simultaneous combination of intellectual comedy and the pathos of meaninglessness.

This dual effect is manifested in Guildenstern’s meditation on death: “Death is not. Death is not being.” The line evokes Hamlet’s soliloquy, but Guildenstern says it to rebut the Player’s use of death as a theatrical trope. Guildenstern stands in for Stoppard’s twentieth century concerns about the falsehood of nobility, the lack of faith in a hereafter, and the end of transcendent meaning. The Player responds: “We don’t question. We don’t doubt. We perform.” By the end of the play, it is an open question whether Guildenstern’s worry is truly superior to Rosencrantz’s blasé attitude. What value has truth if it only leads to despair? Can willful ignorance be a form of wisdom?

Such a script-focused play lends itself to a minimalist production that is well suited to the limited accouterments of Hart Auditorium. Stephanie Wesley’s set design includes a few black rectangular boxes, a cloth drop, and a platform and sheet in Act III. The suggestion, rather than display, of Elsinore Castle and the boat to England reflects the fact that the story’s real drama is not located in any physical place, but in the relationship between author and character. Cain Norris’s lighting illuminates both stage and mood without distraction, favoring subtle changes over flashy special effects, excepting the chaotic battle against the pirates in Act III. Likewise, Director Ben Leatham’s blocking is lively enough to hold the audience’s attention, but restrained enough to avoid overwhelming the limited space.

This tightness of focus demands strong performances. Jeffrey Asjes as Rosencrantz and Sarah Barden as the Player are particularly good. Asjes has a wide range, shifting easily from casual acceptance of the story’s reality, to panic, to foolishness and credulity. Much of the humor depends on Asjez’s playfulness and simplicity. But Asjez also evokes pity at Rosencrantz’ death, as his innocence makes him less able than Guildenstern to fear the authorial power that dooms them. Compared to the title characters, Barden as the Player is embedded in a further layer of unreality. She appropriately embraces this, with the most physical and deliberately staged performance of the cast. In contrast to Guildenstern’s search for truth, Barden’s Player finds her own drama in the art of acting itself. Her assumption that makes existence viable is: “That someone would be watching.” The performance links the central concern of the actor’s craft to the wary humanism that lurks behind Stoppard’s playfulness.

For Republicans: A questionable Santorum surge from the rear

Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s photostream on Dan Savage’s rebranding campaign has made for some amusing headlines.

by Charlie Pfeifer, 1L

Reading the mainstream media, from the New York Times to the Wall Street Journal, it is easy to forget the way former senator Rick Santorum’s name appeared in print most frequently since his failed 2006 senatorial campaign – was a thinly veiled reference to homosexual anal intercourse and, more specifically, its byproducts. Thanks to nationally syndicated love advice columnist, Dan Savage (himself a gay American), and his well executed 2003 campaign to name the frothy mixture leftover from the physical act of homosexual intercourse after the then senator. While the Oxford English Dictionary has yet to anoint the noun, a quick Google search confirms that, for all public usages, the name probably, um, sticks.

While this fact must be well known to the Republican establishment now starting to diverge from a singular backing of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as Mr. Santorum’s candidacy has been, uhh, surging. Santorum’s donor base has been broadening all month following victories (albeit with nonbinding delegates) in Maine, Minnesota, and Colorado. Is the establishment pondering, then, whether it’s long-harbored views on homosexuality, currently iterated as a battle, nominally, about the term “marriage” being legally applied to the property rights bestowed upon two loving, consenting adults by the state, are becoming anachronistic to an electorate that derives its common usage from Wikipedia and Google.

The mainstream and no so mainstream media outlets have so openly punned with Santorum’s double meaning to comedic results, that the term’s meaning is fairly public knowledge.  (As evidenced by pithy titles of blogs and newspaper articles: “Santorum Bubbling Up Everywhere” (on Andrew Sullivan’s Atlantic blog The Daily Dish), “Santorum Surges from Behind in Iowa” (The Philadelphia Inquirer’s, and the truly ridiculous winner by an alternative Birmingham, Alabama blogger “Poll: Santorum comes from behind in Alabama threeway.”)  The donors, supporters, and strategizers for Santorum know this. His only possible political move is to sound so stridently anti-gay that he creates a legitimate “homophobia gap” within the Republican electorate that he can, erm, squeeze out Romney from the right.

This again raises the strategic quandary for the Santorum team. If the be-vested lawyer from Pittsburgh actually makes it all the way to the general election in November (the most current polls at the hour of publication have him only a few points off Romney in both Arizona and Michigan, Tuesday’s contests), then he will be running against an American public that, for the first time, has a clear predisposition towards gay marriage, gay rights generally, and a growing distaste for preachy, baroque politics. That may be the bigger issue on their hands, already somewhat be-Santorumed.                                                              

And the award for outstanding awards show goes to…

Courtesy of cliff1066’s photostream on The statues change, but the prestige remains the same.America has an insatiable appetite for competition. We currently sustain three individual singing competition shows, Bravo’s entire lineup of original programming, Survivor, the Bachelor, Wipeout – and that’s just reality television. Professional sports are a multi-billion dollar industry, and going to Vegas is an American tradition.

So it’s no surprise that we’ve used awards shows to try and turn television, music, and movies into competitions. And now, in true American spirit, I’ve decided to hand out an award for best award show. Drumroll, please…

The Oscars. Was there really any doubt? The Oscars are easily the best awards show (although they could stand to steal the tables and alcohol from the Golden Globes). In some ways, this doesn’t make sense. Music should make for a better live show than film. The Grammys bring in the most popular musicians in the world and have them perform. The Oscars are four hours of self-congratulatory speeches. Many more people have seen the television shows that are rewarded at the Emmys than have seen the many of the nominated films. The Golden Globes combine the star power of television and movies with the most congenial award show atmosphere.

So why are the Oscars the best? It’s simple: people care who wins. The Oscars, especially for actors, are a legitimate professional achievement. People care who wins enough that it changes what kind of movies get made. Sometimes it motivates great performances and brings us a great movie (see: “The King’s Speech”). Sometimes it brings us bloated drivel (see: “J. Edgar”). It also changes when movies get released. Movies with Oscar ambitions want to be released sometime in the late fall or early winter. They have to be out before the end of the year, but they want to be fresh in the minds of Academy voters, and they try to design the release to create as much awards buzz as possible.

In contrast, not only do the Grammys not influence the schedule of music releases, I don’t think anyone actually knows which artists and albums are eligible for what in any particular year. Somehow Bon Iver won Best New Artist a couple of weeks ago, despite the fact that the band was featured on “Chuck” in 2008 and played Lollapalooza in 2009.

The Emmys are based around the increasingly irrelevant network television schedule. Shows following in the footsteps of “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” release smaller numbers of episodes in short, concentrated runs. Last year, “Boardwalk Empire” had been off the air for so long before the Emmys that voters assumed it was actually made during prohibition.

Another thing the Oscars have going for them is simplicity. There are no genre divisions (animated and foreign aren’t really genres). It recognizes the individual parts of filmmaking, and then the whole. The Emmys is essentially two different awards shows: one for drama and one for comedy. The Grammys are a mess. There are awards for album of the year, record of the year, and song of the year. And then there are more genres than you can shake a stick at.

 The most important thing about the Oscars, is that they generally get it right. When you look back a particular Oscars, it gives you a good snapshot of what the memorable movies and performances were from that year. While the best film from a particular year doesn’t always win, the best team doesn’t always win the Super Bowl, either. The Grammys are a popularity contest. Even recent victories by Arcade Fire and The Black Keys feel more like calculated nods to a fracturing music fandom than genuine recognitions of quality. As for the Emmys, “The Wire” was never even nominated for Outstanding Drama Series. Nothing more need be said.

The Oscars matter in a way that no other awards show does. They have managed to establish and maintain prestige while the Emmys and the Grammys feel like manufactured ratings-machines. And that is why the Oscars win.