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November 18, 2005 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-11-18

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, November 18, 2005

OPINION

cat lie firtichtgan 43a illd

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
You know Cox
has fucked 'em,
uh, in the line of
duty."
- Attorney Lee O'Brien, claiming state Attor-
ney General Mike Cox had extramarital sex
in a courthouse, to a Cox employee wearing a
wiretap for an investigation of a plot to black-
mail Cox, in an Oct. 14 conversation at a bar in
Novi, according to a transcript on freep.com.

MICHELLE BIEN THLELBEAN ARCH fvps
Of
t,
I fi
/ tO(

The waiting game
ZACK DENFELD 8-BlT CRITIC

hought experi-
ment: Let's say
a government
in charge of the United
States spiraled out of
control. In particular,
let's assume that it was
the executive branch
(also known as "the
administration") that
through a series of poor
judgments and inappropriate appointments
at all levels became totally insular and had a
repeated pattern of power abuse and criminal
behavior that was under investigation.
Q: Other than an armed uprising or just
waiting it out, what are the legal or histori-
cal precedents that would allow a truly perni-
cious executive branch to be deposed?
It seems not much. Unlike parliamentary
systems of government which have the pos-
sibility of no-confidence votes, it is difficult
to remove an administration in a presidential
system. But in the short term we have seen
something akin to the stylings of the parlia-
mentary system this week. I would agree with
the editorial page of The New York Times
which on Thursday wrote, "No matter how
the White House chooses to spin it, the United
States Senate cast a vote of no confidence this
week on the war in Iraq. And about time."
The administration is looking increasingly
discreditable in the mainstream press, and
even the right is beginning to see the writing
on the wall. This week, noted conservative col-
umnist William Kristol wrote, "If the Ameri-

can people really come to a settled belief that
Bush lied us into war, his presidency will be
over." His advice was for the administration
to keep refuting the dissenters, because he
believes the facts are on the administrations
side. But the Bush administration's admonish-
ment of political dissent as "irresponsible" this
week just emphasizes its trapped-in-a-corner
mentality. The facts will speak, and they are
being uncovered each day.
This is the same week that the deeply irre-
sponsible and hypocritical policies of the
executive branch were on full display. On
Wednesday of this week, according to the
BBC, the United States admitted to using
white phosphorus in Falluja as a weapon after
previously saying "that white phosphorus had
been used only to light up enemy positions.
White phosphorus produces a dense white
smoke that can cause serious burns to human
flesh. Although the United States is not a sig-
natory to the 1980 Convention on Certain Con-
ventional Weapons, which prohibits its use as an
incendiary weapon against civilian populations
or in air attacks against enemy forces in civilian
areas, the United States may have violated the
1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, which it is
a signatory to. The initial denial of its use repeats
this administration's tactic of questionable poli-
cies that then have to be covered up or denied.
While illegal or inappropriate use of white
phosphorus may not concern neoconserva-
tives who give no credence to the notion of
international law when it interferes with their
imperial dreams anyway, most Americans are
unlikely to agree with the use of chemical-

based weapon that the world has collectively
deemed unlawful for combat use.
How much must an administration lie
before it becomes the constitutional duty of
the people to remove it from office?
The most honorable members of the Sen-
ate, such as John McCain (R-Ariz.), have
long stood up to the more heinous aspects of
the neoconservative agenda, but one wonders
what type of pressure it will take for other
congressmen to return to their senses and
move away from the use of the "black arts"
the vice president's office has been mania-
cally pushing for since Sept. 11.
In the United States, articles of impeach-
ment require a simple majority to be brought
forth in the house and can even then be killed
in the senate. The current congressional con-
figuration makes the prospect of impeachment
unlikely, but the administration may be run-
ning out of scare tactics and dirty tricks. Most
moderate Republicans realize this administra-
tion will be a severe election-year burden. The
American polity is finally waking up from its
Sept. 11 daze, and although it may not be until
2006, the criminality of the Bush administra-
tion will be exposed and they will be deposed
in an unceremonious manner.
The question then will be if the American
people can resist the temptation to return to
an isolationist philosophy and instead find
a way to reintegrate the nation into main-
stream global civil society.
Denfeld can be reached at
zcd@umich.edu.

Experts are not the enemy
JESSE SINGAL SEM ItE TIDE

Preaching politics
Current law protects church-state separation

ecent news that the Internal
Revenue Service is targeting
liberal California church for an
anti-war sermon before last year's presi-
dential election understandably dis-
turbed the Daily's editorial board. The
editorial it passed in reaction (Praying
to talk, 11/17/2005), however, went far
beyond questioning whether this action
is politically motivated. The Daily took
a broad stance that all nonprofit orga-
nizations, including religious groups,
should be free from any restrictions on
political speech. This position, if car-
ried out, would draw church and state
dangerously close together at a time
when the faith-based Bush administra-
tion is already making a mockery of
secular governance.
The tax law giving exemptions to
churches is a straightforward solution to
the role of religious institutions in a sec-
ular state. Acknowledging that religion
is a sphere that should not be within
its control, the government doesn't tax
churches. In exchange for this benefit,
churches accept speech restrictions that
prohibit them from attempting to influ-
ence the government in elections.
As the law is typically enforced, reli-
gious leaders are allowed to speak out
on moral and societal issues as their
faith dictates, but are prohibited from
endorsing candidates or directly aid-
ing their campaigns. Indeed, one of the
most troubling aspects about the case
involving All Saints Episcopal Church
of Pasadena, Calif. is that the sermon
the IRS objects to did not endorse a can-
didate; though the sermon sharply criti-
cized President Bush for his decision to
go to war in Iraq, it also took Sen. John
Kerry to task for supporting Bush's war
and suggested both candidates had given
insufficient attention to poverty.
The Daily is a strong supporter of free
speech, and its concerns with speech
restrictions on nonprofits are under-

standable. Indeed, these rules apply to
all charitable groups. It is rather difficult
to understand why the United Way, say,
should have anything less than the full
First Amendment rights its leaders oth-
erwise enjoy as private citizens. (The
legislative history behind the limits on
tax-exempt groups suggests that chari-
table organizations serving as cogs in
political campaigns spurred the move.)
In the case of religious organizations,
however, the Daily's adamant belief
that America is and should be a secular
state heavily outweighs the limited free
speech concerns with this law. Allowing
ministers and monks to influence elec-
tions through their congregations encour-
ages a far greater degree of entanglement
between church and state than our coun-
try should accept. You don't have to
look as far as Iraq to see that mobilizing
religious groups for every political cam-
paign isn't exactly the smoothest way to
run a democracy.
More troubling are the implications
for interaction between church and
state, given the direction of this admin-
istration. Reflecting the influence of
conservative Christians in the Republi-
can Party, Bush has pushed for policies
such as federal funding for faith-based
initiatives. It's not difficult to imagine
corrupt clergy, once allowed to engage
in campaigns, offering up their believ-
ers' political support as a bargaining
chip when negotiating with the govern-
ment for public money.
Allowing tax-exempt religious groups
to advocate their beliefs on specific poli-
cies while preventing them from joining
in political campaigns is a fair balance
in a free, secular state. There's no need
to change tax laws around to give reli-
gion more influence in our public life.
Christopher Zbrozek is an LSA senior and
an associate editorial page editor. He can be
reached at zbro@umich.edu.

here were
two impor-
tant election
results involving
evolution a couple
of week s ag o. In
Dover, Penn., vot-
ers replaced eight
Republican members
of a school board, all
of whom had enacted
a policy requiring students in the district
to hear a short statement about intelligent
design prior to learning about evolution.
The new board members, all Democrats,
want nothing to do with intelligent design.
In Kansas, meanwhile, things turned out
differently; the state's Board of Education
approved new science standards in a 6-4
vote that seem to favor intelligent design
at the expense of evolution. Most notable
among the changes is an alteration of the
board's very definition of science. The old
language, which stated that science is "the
human activity of seeking natural expla-
nations for what we observe in the world
around us," has been supplanted by a new
definition - one that cuts out the word
"natural" with reference to the explana-
tions that science seeks to develop.
This is troublesome, to say the least. The
excision certainly seems intentional, and
it's hard to see why science should ever
touch anything that isn't "natural." Certain
groups are seeking to worm their preferred
ideology into science classrooms - an
ideology that is far from scientific. What's
unfortunate is that if poll numbers are any
indication, Kansas's result is much more in
line with "mainstream America."
According to a CBS survey conducted

in late October, 51 percent of Americans
believe that God created humans in their
present form. This is a surprising statis-
tic for anyone who lives in a major urban
area or a liberal, intellectual enclave like
Ann Arbor - if you asked around in New
York, Boston or Los Angeles, you'd get the
impression that Americans, on the whole,
accept evolution. But this is not the case,
and it has major ramifications.
Huge swathes of the country disagree
with the accepted view of biologists every-
where. It's easy to shrug this off and say, "So
what?" But there's more at stake here. This
has to do with being a highly industrialized,
ultramodern country where the majority of
the population lacks a basic understanding
of science or the logical process. It has to do
with our ability to accept undesirable facts.
And most importantly, it has to do with our
ability to defer to experts.
A history class teaches what history
experts think. A painting class teaches the
techniques adopted by master painters. So
why, in certain areas, are we so unwilling
to accept the opinions of experts? It's a
question that needs to be addressed, as an
ill-informed voting body is a self-destruc-
tive voting body. Just as most Americans
don't believe in evolution, there was a point
at which most people thought Saddam Hus-
sein was involved in Sept. 11. These aren't
exactly raging controversies for experts in
the respective areas; all it takes to find out
that yes, evolution exists, or that Hussein, a
secular nationalist, would be loath to asso-
ciate with a religious radical like Osama
bin Laden, is to ask someone with a doctor-
ate in the relevant field. A country unwill-
ing to look to experts cannot be expected to
effectively govern itself.

No group better embodies this mistrust
of experts than the Bush administration.
According to The Associated Press, the non-
partisan Government Accountability Office
recently revealed anomalies in the Food and
Drug Administration's decision to reject
over-the-counter sales of the morning-aftet
pill, including the fact that "some documents
suggest the decision was made even before
scientists finished reviewing the evidence."
Much has already been written accusing
President Bush of stocking high-level orga-
nizations like the FDA and Environmental
Protection Agency with those whose quali-
fications are more political than scientific.
Bush, for his part, wants intelligent design
taught alongside evolution.
It's in the interest of politicians that
we mistrust experts. Experts, usually
subjected to the political disinfectant of
peer-reviewed journals and wary of the
career-killing potential of bad science, are
more concerned with accuracy than with
conclusions that fit into a particular agen-
da. Politicians are concerned with getting
re-elected. This explains many of the ori-
gins of anti-intellectualism; intellectuals
have a pesky habit of undermining political
rhetoric. The same goes for the consistent
attempts on the part of the Republicans to
foment distrust of the media. The GOP,
of course, would rather have itself and its
"new media" figureheads be the ones who
produce and disseminate "truth." It's vital
for the future of the country that the voting
public get over this misunderstanding and
fear. If Kansas is in any indication, we have
a ways to go.
Singal can be reached at
jsingal@umich.edu.

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Unified community will meet
Phelps's message of hatred
TO THE DAILY:
Thank you for your coverage of the
upcoming community action to address Fred
Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church's
picketing of this Saturday's production of

encouragement from across Ann Arbor, the
state of Michigan, and indeed the country have
driven our efforts to speak out against Phelps
and the hate that he represents so well.
Few take Phelps seriously - his message is
illogical and hateful, and certainly has no place
in our community or any other. But the message,
though irrational, is no less hurtful. Phelps and the

of a unified, peaceful community action is
this: If we cannot come together and address
this most exaggerated and extreme form
of homophobia and hate, then we are ill-
equipped and unprepared to address hate and
homophobia as it exists in our daily lives.
After the Ohio State game on Saturday,
celebrate Michigan's victory and join us in
Qrnldarity niitride of the Michigan ILeagueP

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