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November 24, 2004 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-24

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, November 24, 2004

OPINION

U 420 MAYNARD STREET.
ANN ARBOR, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

EDITED AND MANAGED BY
STUDENTS AT THE
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
SINCE 1890

JORDAN SCHRADER
Editor in Chief
JASON Z. PESICK
Editorial Page Editor

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority
of the Daily's editorial board. All other pieces do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
We congratulate
him on all he has
accomplished and
look forward to
the future."
- CBS chairman Leslie Moonves, com-
menting on the retirement of
long-time CBS anchor Dan Rather, as
reported yesterday by ABC News.

SAM BUTLER C_:. c S"SA ox
AN [IVN& [
(._-

0

Welcome to the desert of the real
ELLIOTT MALLEN iRRAFIONL EXUBERANCE

We all know that
it's becoming
harder to stay
connected with friends
given our hectic lives as
students. Between enduring
a grueling 16 hours of class
every week and braving
temperatures that can often
fall below 40 degrees, the
average Michigan student
faces many obstacles for socializing. Fortunate-
ly for us, we have Thefacebook.com, the online
social network that manages to dilute human
interaction to an empty-yet-readily quantifiable
caricature.
For those who aren't hip, Facebook is an online
social network a la Friendster that links users based
on their universities. It now consists of more than
200,000 students, several thousand of which go to
our very own University of Michigan. It was created
by a couple of guys from Harvard, and, like Napster
did in a bygone era, it rapidly spread throughout the
country's colleges and universities. Through Face-
book you can see who is in your classes, who lives
in your dorm, who went to your high school, who
else is interested in your favorite book and all kinds
of other stalker-serving information that isn't pro-
vided by the university's online directory.
Facebook is perfect for those who prefer the
translucent distortion of reality provided by a
computer monitor to the dour world in which we
live. Instead of having aimless, drawn-out con-
versations, Facebookers can opt instead to send
grammatically dubious three-line snippets of
information. No longer is it necessary to interact
with classmates; now you can form fruitlessly
impromptu online study groups. Participating in
extracurricular activities has been rendered obso-

lete through the creation of hollow groups like
Ann Arborites for the Appreciation of Assonance
or People Against Eating Other People. Going to
parties is no longer required, as all of your hook-
up needs will be satisfied by formally indicating
your desire for "random play" in your profile.
What once required physical human interaction
can now be accomplished from the womb-like
safety of your own bedroom.
One void that Facebook fills is the need to quan-
tify personal relationships. Friendship becomes
a form of competition as users race to make as
many connections as possible. This is incompa-
rably easier than the messy process of building
legitimate friendships. All that is required in the
world of Facebook is to click "add to friends" and
have the target confirm that he doesn't despise
you. Of course, even pure hatred won't stop
someone from confirming the request because
that would prevent him or her from claiming
another friend as well. And after all, it's not about
legitimate personal connections. It's about main-
taining an Internet-based image of popularity.
The birthday notification is an especially unset-
tling aspect. Every time a user logs in he or she
is told which friends have an approaching birth-
day. When a Facebooker's birthday comes, that
person's Facebook friends will wish him or her a
happy birthday when bumping into one another
on the street. It's eerily gratifying - the only
reason these people know of the birthday or feel
any kind of desire to acknowledge it is because of
a superficial online social network. This transfer
of information gleaned from the artificial world
of Facebook to friends that exist in reality just
underscores Facebook's growing clout.
Another key aspect of Facebook is posting a pic-
ture of yourself for everyone to see. These pictures
range from the jovial partying-with-friends-so-

you-know-I'm-popular variety to the melancholy
looking-away-from-the-camera hipster type.
Some people even use their high school senior
portraits as their Facebook pictures, suggesting
that despite months (if not years) of living away
from home, they still would prefer to be known by
their high school personas. It is crucial that your
picture projects sufficient levels of popularity or
hipsterness to ensure that potential friends won't
be embarrassed to add you to their roster.
The picture is overwhelmingly important
because the fundamental nature of Facebook is
its lack of content or purpose. There is nothing to
show the depths and intricacies of one's personal-
ity except for a listing of favorite books and films,
meaning that the picture is the only aspect that
reveals anything resembling individuality. The
essence of Facebook's existence can be boiled
down to the "poke" feature, which sends a prefab-
ricated message inherently devoid of content to a
friend. The creators of the virtual network explain
the existence of poking by saying, "We have about
as much of an idea as you do. We thought it would
be fun to make a feature that has no specific pur-
pose and to see what happens from there." The
same could easily be said about Facebook itself.
All of this makes it readily apparent just
how surreal Facebook is. Time that could be
spent building real personal relations is spent
in front of a computer harvesting "friends."
Human communication is reduced to its most
fundamental components and then stripped
of any remaining value or substance. Interac-
tion becomes the mere swapping of symbols,
as devoid of meaning as the mundane fluid
exchange of a one-night stand.
Mallen can be reached
at emmallen@umich.edu.

4

U

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Bible is no defense for
cowardly, dishonest ideology
TO THE DAILY:
Kyle Burleson is an example of what is wrong
with conservatives who base their politics on reli-
gion. Would it be fair to call him a bad person? I
don't know - I've never met the kid. But from
reading his letter to the editor, Democrats don't fol-
low Christian values (11/22/2004), I can safely con-
clude that I don't like him. I can guarantee that I
don't have nearly the base of biblical knowledge
that Burleson has, as he so eloquently established in
his article in noting how Medicaid somehow proves
Jesus wouldn't be a Democrat today. What would
he be, Kyle? A "compassionate conservative?"
Damn straight Kyle Burleson, you tell Jeff
Craven. Tell us all. Tell me how Jesus would
have smiled on tax cuts for the wealthy, how the
rich do indeed deserve their tax breaks and most
importantly, how Republicans are morally supe-
rior to Democrats because they support a ban on
abortion. Burleson, I liked how you invoked the
Ten Commandments as a defense for your abor-
tion argument, but let me offer a critique, if I may.
How about we use a modern set of social princi-
ples based on the evolution (oh wait, is that a blas-
phemous word?) of human thought to determine
the laws of our nation rather than a multi-millen-
nia old religious document? How about that?
I have a problem with Burleson and others who
invoke such strict interpretations of the Bible as a
defense for modern political stances. They hide
behind religion as a means of resisting change, and
I find that cowardly and dishonest. Arguments that

gay marriage is a plague on this country and will
erode the sanctity of marriage are but one example.
Now I won't infer your feelings on same-sex
marriage. Frankly, I don't really care. Let's just
allow your "morally superior" administration
to speak for you on this one. Karl Rove made it
abundantly clear that the Bush administration
seeks to amend the U.S. Constitution to maintain
marriage as a union of one man and one woman
only. One more time: We are going to permanent-
ly change the fundamental political document
of our country to support a religious principle
- one that boils down to discrimination. In this
administration's eyes, all men are not equal, and
unlike you I am not "truly grateful."
John Mittelbach
LSA senior
Letter writer fails to defend
the sins of the GOP
TO THE DAILY:
Kyle Burleson ineffectively attempted to defend
the Republican Party as being "the party of moral
values" (Democrats don't follow Christian values,
11/22/2004). The mixed hypocrisy and ignorance
of this statement is amusing at first (he seems to
forget our beloved president's drunk driving and
drug abuse record), but when one realizes that
people like Burleson, as the election shows, are
in the majority, the statement becomes almost
frightening.
The Republican Party is the party of the
wealthy and powerful. Burleson and many other
conservatives seem to forget the holy aphorism,

"It is more difficult for a rich man to enter the
kingdom of God than a camel to pass through
the eye of a needle." Could Jesus be saying that
it is not virtuous to exploit the impoverished and
horde material wealth for personal gain? But if he
were saying that, he'd sound like a gasp liberal!
Burleson writes of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy's
(D-Mass.) opportunistic dishonesty. Now, ol'
Teddy is definitely a disgrace to Democrats and
humanity in general, but let's not forget President
Bush's rushing into war (Iraq), disrespectfully
taking advantage of an opportunity (post-Sept.
1I anti-terrorist sentiment) and also lying about it.
Which brings me to the next point.
Burleson brings up the commandment, "Thou
shalt not kill" and condemns the Democrats as
murderers for their typical pro-choice stance.
Well, that may be, but I am positive that sending
troops into harm's way and commanding them to
kill people is a more direct means of murdering
than giving people the option of having an abor-
tion. Not to mention Bush is notoriously pro-capi-
tal punishment. Just because the state says it's OK
to kill someone doesn't mean Jesus wants it to
happen. Sorry.
The fact is, it is necessary for politicians to lie,
mislead, and misinform, thus abandoning Chris-
tian values. And when they are in position to send
people to their deaths, they usually do. It's all part
of the job requirements. The moral of this story
is: Don't vote based on morality. Politicians are
by nature immoral and any that claim otherwise
are lying, which should come as no surprise.
Andy Petrovich
LSA sophomore

VIEWPOINT
Dow Chemical responds

BY JOHN MUSSER
Your Nov. 4, 2004, editorial attacking The
Dow Chemical Company (Dow's at it again,
11/04/2004) raises serious questions about
the Daily's standards for checking facts
before taking extreme positions. Granted, an
editorial is only an opinion, but even mini-
mal standards of responsible journalism sug-
gest that editorials should be based on facts,
not unfounded, hyperbolic assertions.
Minimal research into the two issues you
raised - the presence of dioxins and furans
in mid-Michigan and the Bhopal tragedy
- would have shown the following:
U The principal component of the dioxins and
furans found in and along the Tittabawassee River
are furans, which most likely were produced as
byproducts before World War I. This preceded

Departments serving Midland and Saginaw
Counties, it is stated that "there is no evidence
of any known health effect or illnesses that may
have occurred in people as a result of exposure to
dioxins in the flood plain."
There are hundreds of different types of
dioxins, but only one has been classified as a
human carcinogen. Less than 2 percent of the
dioxin-like-compounds found in Midland and
Tittabawassee River flood-plain soils are com-
posed of this one type of dioxin.
More than 95 percent of the dioxins in our
bodies come from the food we eat. Soil con-
taining dioxins is not considered a significant
contributor to dioxins in people.
Seventeen published studies of Dow work-
ers exposed to dioxins in an industrial setting
have been conducted during the past 50 years.
To date, with the exception of chloracne, a
severe skin condition known to be caused by

holder in Union Carbide India Ltd. (UCIL),
the Indian company that owned and operated
the plant in Bhopal at the time of the tragedy.
Union Carbide was prohibited by the Indian
government from having any direct involve-
ment in managing or running the plant.
At the time of the tragedy, however, Union
Carbide stepped forward to accept moral
responsibility for the situation and immedi-
ately undertook significant actions to provide
relief to the victims.
In 1989, UCIL and Union Carbide entered
into a settlement agreement with the Govern-
ment of India and paid $470 million to settle all
claims arising from the tragedy. The Supreme
Court of India concluded that this agreement
was a "just, equitable and reasonable" settle-
ment.
- In February 2001, 17 years after the trag-
edy, Dow acquired Union Carbide, which has

T _ -

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