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March 31, 2000 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-31

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, March 31, 2000

lbe 1M[irbwut DaiQ g

William Jefferson's climate controlled karma

0

420 Maynard Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
daily.letters@umich.edu
Edited and managed by
students at the
University of Michigan

MIKE SPAHN
Editor in Chief
EMILY ACHENBAUM
Editorial Page Editor

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the
Daily's editorial board. Allother articles, letters and cartoons do not necessarily
reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

Hash Bash should focus on legalization

W .. Clinton hooked up last weekend. It
was perfect. The party was in South
Asia. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh were the
babes from the rival sororities. The orgy that
followed was huge. I mean, we're talking
about one and half billion people here. A sixth
of the world was high on star-spangled Bud
Light democracy
flown in on Air Force
One. Non-Prolifera-
tion Treaty ecstasy
pills kept them all trip-
ping on the Taj Mahal.'
Business venture
bongs were the bomb
and Ravi Shankar
anthems made good
karma. But it was the
morning after the East
meets and mates West _
party that the pseudo- Waj
democratic hangover Syed
hit every one. And O
yes, Clinton also left a Te raci
burning couch on the Kama Sutra
porch: Kashmir.
So, just to round
all you anti-foreign correspondence buggers
up on what happened in South Asia last week.
Clinton arrived in India. He saw the Taj Mahal
and petted bengal tigers. He bought two car-
pets on his Platinum Visa. He ate chicken tan-
doori and mango ice-cream. He probably
smoked a beedi or two. In the middle, he
strayed into Bangladesh. There, he met vil-
lagers and ate fish. He thanked the
Bangladeshis for the night out by writing
them a check for a few mill, which probably
covered up that poor country's bill for all the
banners and flowers they had lovingly adorned

the vacuumed and garrisoned streets with.
Then, he hooked up, leaving the Bangladeshis
with sweet promises of aid and economic ben-
efits. He got back to India. He bought a sari
for Hillary (Platinum Visa). More mango ice-
cream for the Commander in Chief. He visit-
ed an orphanage to show off his soft side. He
went to a tech conference to show off his
industrial savvy. Then, he hooked up. The
morning after, Mother India was left misty
eyed with promises of renewed ties, fresh
starts, increased trade and revived aid. Beauti-
ful.
Then, much to the chagrin of India, Clin-
ton headed out to Pakistan: Nuclear Club
Member No. 8, The Land of Military Juntas
and Powerless Purity. It was thought, even by
cynical poli sci eediots like this one, that this
was it: Kashmir would be put on the table and
the state of that State finally discussed. There
was hope of the defunct peace process being
jump-started and of the half-million Indian-
Pakistani forces on the most tense border in
the world being de-mobilized. But yet again,
Clinton hooked up, this time with the mil-
lions whom he addressed live on TV, telling
them that it was "up to the people of Pak-
istan" to meet the challenges of re-furbishing
democracy and signing the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty. In effect, what Clinton was
asking a 140 million people of a country
where there are twice as many soldiers as
teachers and which has been ruled by the mil-
itary for half its bloody existence to do was to
play Plato while the generals played
Napoleon in Islamabad; moreover WJC
asked them to sign the CTBT, a bullshit
agreement which means nothing and can be
averted via alternate means of
laboratory/diplomatic gimmicks. Taking the

pious generals in Islamabad for his frat bud-
dies, Clinton assumed that they would allow
all of the above, especially after India was left
gloating and chiseling its strategic forces
across the border. And 0 yes. Kashmir was
once again left out of the speech and to the
arbitrary whims of the nuke and spook for-
eign policies of the Islamic Republic of Pak-
istan and the Republic of India. Beautiful.
There is no military solution to Kashmir.
Sacrifices of national pride and policy will
have to be made from both sides to resolve the
issue (note that by employing the term 'both,'
I pretend to myself that the Kashmiri people
will not sacrifice, perhaps because they have
lost enough already). That is a given. If they
are lucky, Pakistan and India will resort to the
same proxy war they have been fighting in the
mountains for the last few years. People, like
the 35 Sikhs massacred in a village in Kash-
mir while Clinton checked out the Taj from a
red carpet in Agra, will continue to die. If they
are not lucky, then, like the 'experts' suggest,
a conventional confrontation might spiral into
a nuclear confrontation between the two
nations. But we do not need experts to realize
that the American president just took a media-
enhanced democratic dump on a crisis which
demands urgent international mediation and a
fresh salvo of diplomatic initiatives. Clinton
has left the Indians congratulating themselves
for being excellent hosts and cooks and the*
Pakistanis desperately confused about how to
go about signing some bullshit treaty which
promises them nothing. Meanwhile, as the
after-taste of mango ice-cream remains and
pictures of the Taj Mahal are framed for the
White House, Kashmir bleeds.
- Waj Syed can be reached via
e-mail at wajsyed@umich.edu.

T his Saturday, the air around Cen-
tral Campus will take on a very
distinctive odor as thousands of people,
students and non-students alike, gather
on the Diag to roll a joint in honor of
the annual Hash Bash. A tradition in
Ann Arbor since 1972, Hash Bash was
born not only as an excuse to smoke
pot but as a way to protest the criminal-
ization of marijuana. Indeed, the
protest is the most important aspect of
the event. Based on the existing evi-
dence, there is no good reason for mar-
ijuana to be illegal.
The dangers posed by smoking mar-
ijuana pale in comparison to those
posed by the use of many other legal
substances. Unlike nicotine, alcohol'
and even caffeine, marijuana has never
been proven to be physically addictive,
nor has there ever been a recorded case
of a fatal overdose. Marijuana's vaunt-
ed status as a "gateway drug," which
introduces users to more dangerous
substances such as heroin, cocaine and
LSD, is based on similarly dubious sta-
tistics. In general, the effects of mari-
juana use are comparable to those of
alcohol, yet alcohol is legal while mari-
juana is not.
Another reason to legalize marijua-
na is its medicinal value. It has been
used to relieve the symptoms of glau-
coma, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy,
paraplegia and quadriplegia, as well as
to reduce nausea in cancer and AIDS
patients. However, most states ban the
drug even for medicinal use. This pun-

ishes the sick for therapeutic use of a
substance that should not be illegal in
the first place.
Many of the legitimate dangers
caused by marijuana use would be alle-
viated were the substance legal. For
instance, once legal and regulated, it
would be far less likely that people
would smoke marijuana laced with
more dangerous substances.
Legalization of marijuana would
also remove the social problems associ-
ated with its use. It would free space in
the already overcrowded prisons, as
many marijuana offenders receive
unduly stiff sentences even for posses-
sion. Indeed, possession arrests count
for approximately 85 percent of mari-
juana-related arrests. As many of these
offenders are no doubt otherwise law-
abiding, it is a waste of taxpayers'
money and a misguided action on the
part of the criminal justice system to
punish marijuana users so harshly.
It is for reasons such as these that
Hash Bash was formed - to support
the decriminalization of a relatively
innocuous drug. The key issue here is
not merely marijuana but freedom of
choice: The right to put anything one
wants into one's body. In recent years,
Hash Bash has become something of a
commercial event, as people in and
around Ann Arbor think of it primarily
as a pot-smoking party. But the event
should not be as much about getting
stoned as it is about standing up for
personal rights.

THoMAS KULJURGIS

TENTATIVELY

SPEAKING

MALE BMt4Yn59,.

II4lst NIUDc

Hot issue
Flag burning should remain legal

I t is an ongoing debate in Congress.
Once again votes are near in the U.S.
Senate on a proposed amendment that
could make burning or desecrating the
U.S. flag illegal. While this issue is
undoubtedly one of the most heated
and personal debates in the country, the
law is clear. Burning the flag should
not be an illegal action.
Time and time again the U.S.
Supreme Court has said that the per-
sonal destruction of the U.S. flag is a
legal and protected form of free speech
as outlined by the First Amendment.
And yet nearly every year this issue is
brought up again in Congress. Ameri-
cans of both party affiliations continue
to actively fight for or against this
issue and those against it continue to
pressure Congress into seeking to
amend the freedom of speech laws as
presented in the Bill of Rights.
What Congress needs to recognize
here is that this is a personal battle - a
battle that will never be settled through
a moral consensus but is settled lawful-
ly. In examining the issue of flag burn-
ing, one needs to separate personal
beliefs from legal ones. Those who
support the right to burn the flag do not
necessarily support flag burning itself.
The important distinction to make is
that Americans should have the right to
do so. Freedom of speech is a funda-
mental right in our country and a dri-
ving force behind our Constitutional
legislation. Abridging the right to free
speech in any manner would be an
action against our American ideals.
Congress has more important issues
to deal with then eliminating flag burn-
ing. The issue is highly personal, gar-
nering much of its support from
Republican politics, veterans and civic
groups. It is understandable that people
who fought for our country in war and
who see the flag as our symbol of free-

dom would fight to protect it. Still, the
truth is that the Constitutional laws that
guarantee free speech are much more
important than a symbol should ever
be. If done in a peaceful manner, the
burning of the flag is a legal form of
protest. It is simply another way in
which citizens of this country actively
express their concerns and voice their
beliefs. The sense of patriotism that
many amendment supporters feel is
understandable, but misguided. Pro-
tecting the right to burn the flag pro-
tects the very rights that previous
American soldiers fought for.
In deciding to examine the issue,
Congress must also realize its relative
importance on a national scale. Aside
from being an act protected by the first
Amendment, flag burning does not
occur nearly enough to argue amending
the U.S. Constitution. Restricting our
freedom of speech in the hopes of pro-
tecting an action that occurs rarely
does not make sense. Although govern-
ment officials feel that the majority of
the country would be in favor of such
an amendment, they are mistaken. Polls
taken on flag burning are often biased
due to ambiguous questions. Instead of
focusing on a niche issue like this,
Congress needs to turn its attention to
more pressing issues.
No matter what one's personal agen-
da or feeling may be about burning the
flag, it is not their place to judge other
people for doing it. Part of being free is
being able to destroy a symbol in which
one has great pride. Disallowing our
ability to burn the flag only destroys
the ideals that it stands for. Freedom of
speech is a privilege of this country. It
is a right fundamental in the history of
our nation and it is protected by the
First Amendment. It should not be
taken for granted by any citizen or
politician.

Cwen 'S column
unfairly labeled
liberals
TO THE DAILY:
It's very selfless of Josh Cowen to
consider himself "liberal" at the outset of
his column "Note to campus liberals:
Look on the bright side," (3/28/00) since
he spends the entirety of said column
deriding and criticizing that very group.
In the process of trying to get the left to
"look on their bright sides," he illustrates
the pressing need for political clarity and
his own lack thereof
Cowen would have it that the debate
between liberals and conservatives boils
down to a conflict between optimists and
pessimists. Looking at this debate, or at
politics in general, in such a way is irre-
sponsible and dangerous. The question
ought not to be what is "positive" and
what is "negative;" the question ought to
be what is right. Liberals (and in that cat-
egory I certainly don't place Cowen) do
not believe what they do because it's neg-
ative; they do so because they believe it's
right. One may happen to believe that it
is not necessary to bomb civilians in
Yugoslavia, starve children in Iraq or
send $1.6 billion in mainly military aid
to Colombia to protect my "right to stand
in the middle of the Diag and criticize."
If one came to the opposite conclusion,
based on the facts, it would still be more
welcome than choosing to go along with
whatever our military does because doing
otherwise would be "focusing on the neg-
ative."
Even if it were the case that we ought
to base our political beliefs on optimism
and cheeriness rather than truth, his doc-
trine (attributed to the insurmountably
optimistic and cheery George Will) that
liberals focus on the negative while con-
servatives focus on the positive is base-
less. Liberals criticize the United States,
the University, University President Lee
Bollinger and the Armed Forces, and this
makes them negative. Have we so soon
forgotten the unending barrage of conser-
vative hate-mongeri ng, involving every-
thing from calling abortion providers and
the millions of women who have exer-
cised their reproductive rights, murder-
ers, to accusing a University course of
being a tool of the evil homosexual
recruitment drive? Both liberals and con-
servativesalike support what they believe
in and question what they do not. There
is no justification for claiming that one
group focuses on the negative and the
other on the positive aspects of the
nation.
Finally, let's just admit that there are,
in addition to positive aspects, negative
aspects of our world. If someone points
one of those negative aspects out, it is
generally in order to eliminate it, and
hence make the world better. There's
nothing wrong with that.
GARTH HEUTEL
LSA SENIOR
MAQ C IAtl-tnc

7L! iij

I

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Board was approved unanimously by the
whole of the Michigan Student Assem-
bly. If the integrity of its members was
going to be questioned, it should've been
questioned then.
Personally, the last political party I
was involved in no longer exists. That
makes it tough to accuse me of bias, and
I am the chair of the Election Board. If I
had felt the rest of members of the Board
lose their objectivity anytime during the
election, I could've superceded their
decision. But that never happened.
The Election Board should be appre-
ciated, noteslandered. Being on the Board
is a tough and thankless job. The four
other members of the Board, Siafa Hage,
Peter Handler, Marisa Linn and Jen Sea-
mon, worked just as hard as I did and
didn't even get paid. If that's not dedica-
tion, I'm not sure what is.
I've served on several Election Boards
in past semesters and they typically have
been fearful of strictly enforcing the
rules. This Board was the first I've
worked with that did what they felt was
right, and not necessarily what would be
popular. And that takes a lot of courage.
ALOK AGRAWAL
MSA ELECTION DIRECTOR
Wolverine Party
was wronged in
MSA election
TO THE DAILY:
I went to the recent MSA council
meeting because I thought the punish-
ment was unfair for the people running in
the Wolverine Party. I know Doug Tietz
personally, he is one of my good friends.
I know that he would never compromise
his ethics. I also some of the others run-
ning, like Jessica Cash. Everyone run-
ning with the Wolverine Party was
running to represent the students who
voted and elected them.
At themeeting, the current MSA
council had a chance to give the Wolver-
ine Party a chance to appeal before the
newly "elected" people were placed in
office. There were numerous attempts by
a limited few to postpone this meeting,

that MSA has, to voice the opinion of the
University, is being abused by power
hungry people. I voted in the election,
and now my votes are being discarded.
My voice has been silenced. The students
have spoken in the election, we want
wolverine. I now look to the administra-
tion to remedy these wrongs.
DAVID WARD
ENGINEERING FIRST-YEAR STUDENT
Southworth ruling
was disappointing
TO THE DAILY:
I appreciate the Daily's coverage of the
Supreme Court's Southworth ruling. I am
very disappointed in the decision, though.
Forcing students to financially support cam-
pus groups that are politically, ideologically,
or religiously opposed to their own beliefs
is a clear violation of civil rights.
In his concurring opinion, Supreme
Court Justice David Souter compared
mandatory fees for student groups to using
tuition dollars to pay professors with con-
troversial views. However, professors,
unlike student groups, must uphold acade-
mic/ethical standards and justify their
expenditures. Compulsory support fosters
an unmerited sense of entitlement. Instead
of encouraging campus groups to empower
themselves through their own fundraising
efforts, the university tells them that they
somehow have a "right" to public money by
mere virtue of their existence. The issue of
"no taxation without representation" is also
a concern. Because our money is given to
these groups regardless of our consent,
there is no compelling reason for them to
listen to differing views.
The Southworth decision raises many
questions. Howwill funds be "neutrally"
distributed, as the Court demands? MSA
funding is allocated by "level of campus
activity," which clearly favors organizations
that are already large and well established.
Does this ambiguous phrase refer to meet-
ings per week, number of chalkings on the
Diag, or something else? In addition, are
there any stipulations for how our money is
to be spent or are we simply making indi-
ra.* rnnn.tnin ., nrinc rnliainimnc'

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