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October 10, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-10-10

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 10, 2005

OPINION

cue dicbgau iail

JASON Z. PESICK
Editor in Chief

SUHAEL MOMIN
SAM SINGER
Editorial Page Editors

ALISON GO
Managing Editor

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

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

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
I was very sure I
would die."
-Pakistani earthquake survivor Maria
Hussain, who was pulled from the
wreckage of her school after Saturday's
quake that left more than 20,000 dead, as
reported yesterday by washingtonpost.com.

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Don't you wish you were riding one?
ELOTF MALLEN IRRATIONA L ExUBERANCE

A bout 80
cyclists could
be found
careening around
downtown Ann Arbor
two weeks ago, fleet-
ingly occupying every-
thing from Washtenaw
Avenue to narrow
Kerrytown residential
streets while chant-
ing, "We don't need cars, we don't need gas,
to ride around town in a Critical Mass!" This
amorphous group of bicycle enthusiasts meets
at the corner of State Street and North Uni-
versity Avenue at 5:15 p.m. on the last Friday
of every month to go on a Critical Mass bike
ride. Critical Mass is a festive assertion of
bike culture celebrated in more than 300 cities
worldwide that is meant to challenge the car's
dominance of transportation and the negative
implications this status quo has on our physi-
cal surroundings.
Critical Mass is a parade that requires no
permit. It is a temporary autonomous zone
on wheels that feels like it should be ille-
gal. It doesn't block traffic because, after
all, the participants are traffic. It isn't civil
disobedience because its participants are
breaking no laws. While the rides certainly
attract attention (due in no short part to the
often-flamboyant dress of participants and
the portable stereos blasting Michael Jack-
son and "Macarena"), the riders are merely
transporting themselves down the road. Our
preconceived notion that the only vehicles
that belong on streets en masse are cars
means that seeing an abundance of bicycles
strikes us as somehow wrong or unnatural.
Critical Mass is intended to draw just such
a reaction and then force people to question
exactly why seeing that many bikes seems so
unnatural.
Critical Mass also compels participants

and observers to rethink their concepts of
public space. Ben Lipkin, long-time Criti-
cal Mass organizer and recent University
graduate, says that the ride can be defined
as a civic event that is completely indepen-
dent from the city. It's an event that is orga-
nized and successfully pulled off without
bothering with the bureaucratic headache
of procuring permission from the city to
block off the streets. He says that "it's a lot
more meaningful when people do it on their
own and spontaneously take control - it
helps people have a realization about the
power that they have," which is what makes
Critical Mass so popular and empower-
ing. The fact that the event is not officially
sanctioned by any kind of authority "makes
larger groups of people create meaningful
connections with public space."
Lipkin explained to me that, although
"from time to time there is some aggra-
vated frat boy looking to pass everyone as
soon as he can while yelling 'beatnik' out
the window," Ann Arborites are supportive
of the Critical Mass rides. People recog-
nize that "in a town like Ann Arbor it's a
lot more practical to ride bikes than it is
to drive," and oftentimes the Critical Mass
riders will find themselves actually outpac-
ing the cars they are supposed to be slowing
down. While some might point to this and
say that it makes Critical Mass rides in Ann
Arbor irrelevant, rider Nat Damren claims
that this actually suggests the negation of
the purpose of the automobile. He says that
while common knowledge holds that you're
supposed to go quickly in a car, downtown
Ann Arbor's streets and the sheer volume
of traffic make a bike a far more practical
mode of transportation. Residents of Ann
Arbor realize this, and so the rides continue
without excessive hostility from motorists
or police.
Riders in other cities are not so lucky.

A New York City Critical Mass that took
place during the 2004 Republican National
Convention and drew thousands of cyclists
ended with more than 250 riders arrested
and the confiscation of even more of their
bikes. This draconian treatment can be
chalked up to the fact that just about any
public political statement resulted in a
few nights behind bars during the week of
the convention, which makes Manhattan
the exception rather than the rule when it
comes to police harassment. Subsequent
downtown rides have seen a larger police
presence and a handful of arrests, but rides
in Brooklyn and the Bronx continue with-
out interference. While there is always
some degree of friction between riders and
police (a few riders have even been arrested
in Grand Rapids), most Critical Mass rides
manage to retain their lively atmosphere
by reducing confrontation. Budapest was
recently host to the world's largest Critical
Mass ride, with 30,000 riders taking to the
streets on Sept. 22 without any hassle from
the police.
Ann Arbor has a ways to go before it can
pull off a ride of Budapest proportions,
but Critical Mass is growing in popular-
ity. Lipkin estimates that about a third of
the cyclists in September's ride were first-
timers, many of which were enthusiastic
but unfamiliar with Critical Mass customs
(including the practice of sporadically lift-
ing one's bike into the air at intersections
and cheering madly). The rapidly deteriorat-
ing weather could put a damper on Critical
Mass, but Lipkin is confident that the Octo-
ber ride's Halloween theme will ensure that
the streets are filled with costumed cyclists
showing that there's more to transportation
than the motorized sort.
Mallen can be reached
at emmallen@umich.edu.

0
S

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

0i

' students deserve to have
concerts as good as State' s
TO THE DAILY:
I love the people who use the Letters to
the Editor section to complain about stuff
that has no relevance to ... well, anyone.
Liberal this, conservative that - who cares?
It's once again time to bring something
to everyone's attention that actually mat-
ters. The other day, my friend Nick brought
something to my attention. He wondered
why the University never hosts any big-time
celebrities or concerts. I have been here for
three years, and all I can remember is Dave
Chappelle coming here once. Something is

missing, alright.
Recently, I watched Jay Leno mention that he
was going to Michigan State University to cel-
ebrate its 150th anniversary. I thought that was
pretty cool, so I decided to do some research
to see how unfortunate our school really is.
Coming up at the Breslin Center are Ludacris
and Ciara on Oct. 20 and Kanye West on Nov
11. Interesting. Who is performing at Crisler
Arena coming up? I don't know either.
Even Big and Rich is coming to State
on March 30. I mean, I don't like country
music, but I'm sure someone at this school
wants to go hear "Save a Horse, Ride a Cow-
boy." Let's not forget three years ago when
"8 Mile" premiered: After showing the
movie at the Breslin, Eminem came out and

gave a free surprise concert.
What does State have that we don't have?
Or better yet, who at this university is drop-
ping the ball and not booking concerts?
Let's look at seating capacity: Breslin Cen-
ter, 15,085, Crisler Arena, 13,751. Not much
of a difference. We all go to a school that
can fill a 107,501-seat stadium for a foot-
ball game against Northern Illinois. No
offense, Huskies, but you'd think we could
sell out Crisler for a Kanye West concert. I
would love to know why we don't have con-
certs here: Athletic Department, Michigan
Student Assembly, Office of New Student
Programs, who knows anymore?
Kevin Orr
LSA senior

VIEWPOINT
The Miers nomination: Bush at work

BY IMRAN SYED
Late night in the Oval Office, a haggard,
worn President Bush, his tie loosened, his
sleeves rolled up, sits staring blankly into
space, clearly preoccupied. There's a knock on
the door. A woman enters.
"Good evening Mr. President, you asked
to see me?"
"Ah yes, Harriet, come in. As you know,
I have to make that second Supreme Court
nomination soon, and it's been very tough
on me."
"Oh, Mr. President, you must select an
experienced and proven legal mind, some-
one who won't legislate from the bench,
someone -"
"I have decided to nominate you, Harriet."
"Me sir? I have no judicial experience, I
have been a private lawyer my whole life, I
was never even attorney general."
"Yes, I am aware, but I hear that you did
stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and
that's good enough for me."

possibly his closest judicial advisor.
In nominating Miers, the President undoubt-
edly overlooked many more experienced and
qualified candidates. With Miers's complete
lack of judicial experience, even Judge Judy
would be more qualified. Foregoing bet-
ter-qualified candidates to select a personal
friend is a prime example of the cronyism that
should have no place in American politics.
Given the significance of this nomination, the
favoritism shown makes it the most blatant
instance of "fudging" in the most fudged-up
presidency since Nixon.
Indeed, to find a recent example of blatant
cronyism of this extent, one has to go all the
way to where democracy in the developed
world goes to die - Singapore. In this openly
authoritarian state, Prime Minister Lee Kuan
Yew once appointed a personal friend and
former family lawyer to his nation's Supreme
Court, and the U.S. State Department chided
him for it. I'm still waiting for Condi Rice
to denounce the appointment of Miers. It'll
come any day now.

true diversity and would forbid Bush from
nominating another woman, were there
another vacancy. Why was Clarence Thom-
as not nominated to the court until another
black man, Thurgood Marshall, retired? He
could have been nominated when William
Brennen retired, but apparently one is the
magic number for black Supreme Court jus-
tices, just as two is for women.
Within this superficial political correct-
ness true diversity in judgment is lost. The
Senate confirmed Clarence Thomas - just
as it will confirm Harriet Miers - because
their rejection would be too politically
explosive. Instead of this one-black-justice-
and-two-female-justices system, shouldn't
we be concentrating on having true diver-
sity of judicial philosophy on the bench?
Indeed, Thomas is the anti-Marshall in all
regards and would overturn some advance-
ments Marshall helped make for civil
rights. Similarly, Miers is no Sandra Day
O'Connor: She will not be a swing-vote
in any regard because Bush made clear he

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Reggie Brown, Amanda Burns,
John Davis, Whitney Dibo, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared Goldberg,
Eric Jackson, Ashwin Jagannathan, Theresa Kennelly, Will Kerridge,

I

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