At last week’s convention of the National Conference of Editorial Writers in Seattle, a Wisconsin editor asked a panel of political pundits about Ralph Nader’s effect on the presidential race. The editor noted that Nader is running ahead of his national average in Wisconsin polls — and well ahead in Madison.

”As goes Madison,” one political scientist interrupted to the laughter of all present, ”so goes Berkeley.”

Our reputation precedes us. Here are three more reasons: Is there a doctor in the Photoshop? At UW-Madison, the quest for diversity (or the appearance thereof) is distorting behavior. Campus officials admitted this week that they inserted the face of a black student into a crowd of white football fans pictured on the cover of a university brochure in an effort to appease UW’s diversity gods.

The cover of the 2001-02 undergraduate application features a 1993 photo of Badger fans at a football game. Added was a 1994 image of UW-Madison senior Diallo Shabazz, who says he’s never even attended a UW football game.

Everyone involved has apologized for manipulating the photo, which is prohibited by university policy. But comments by University Publications director Al Friedman demonstrate how the ”diversity at all costs” climate on the UW-Madison campus is changing how people think — and not for the better. At the time, Friedman said, emphasizing UW-Madison’s diversity seemed to justify doctoring the photo.

This manipulated photo is worth a thousand words: When it comes to diversity, the end justifies the means.

Barring the Stars and Bars: During the American Civil War, Madison housed a drilling camp for Union soldiers and, as the war wore on, a jail for Confederate prisoners. About 140 of those prisoners who died in Madison are buried in the city’s Forest Hill Cemetery, where their graves are decorated with small Confederate flags once a year by a Sons of Confederate Veterans group.

This has been going on in Madison for about as long as anyone can remember. It’s not a tribute to slavery and the Old South, but a simple ceremony to mark Confederate Memorial Day. Mostly, it’s a fascinating glimpse into an often-forgotten part of Madison’s history.

Now comes a Madison man to complain that the tiny Confederate flags ”create a hostile environment” in the cemetery. He wants the city’s Board of Park Commissioners to ban all but the U.S. flag and the state flag from the cemetery.

Such a ban would extend to other flags, such as those commemorating prisoners of war, soldiers missing in action or specific military units. >From time to time, graves of people born outside the United States are also decorated with foreign flags.

The deceased people in Forest Hill aren’t complaining. In fact, no one has ever complained until one guy stepped forward. But a single complaint is enough to merit a special city committee on the subject. In a busy world, it’s comforting to know that some people still have plenty of time on their hands.

Me and Julio naming the schoolyard: Then there’s the effort to give Madison’s newest public school a Hispanic name. One problem is the most famous Hispanics in Madison’s past are all in its present: UW Football Coach Barry Alvarez, Ald. Santiago Rosas and School Board member Juan Jose Lopez.

But naming a school after Alvarez would be inappropriately inflating the importance of sports (another PC no-no) and naming one after Rosas would make the city’s Affirmative Action staff (not to mention half the liberals in town) commit hari-kari. Lopez is out because the Hispanic school name was his idea.

What of other suggestions? Forget Roberto Clemente (the sports thing, although if he had played baseball in Milwaukee it might be a different. Fellow baseball player Jesus Alou, on the other hand, couldn’t get a Madison school named after him if he had grown up here and personally donated all the money to build it. The Jesus thing.) Elena Chavez-Mueller, the school district’s former coordinator for bilingual education? No doubt she was a hard worker, but since bilingual education is increasingly viewed as an impediment to Hispanics getting a good education, that choice might come to be viewed as ironic, like naming a school for a member of the Flat Earth Society.

Cesar Chavez? Like Samuel L. Gompers, for whom a Madison school is named, Chavez was A) a labor leader, B) had no ties to Madison, and C) is dead.

B and C figure prominently in the names of a lot of Madison schools: Thoreau, Emerson, Franklin, Jefferson, Hawthorne. But the days of naming schools after authors, presidents and statesmen are over. Ethnicity is all that counts.

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