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February 02, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-02-02

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, February 2, 2006

OPINION

bE 1CCMri gu tla

DONN M. FRESARD
Editor in Chief

EMILY BEAM
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK
Editorial Page Editors

ASHLEY DINGES
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
In no way,
shape or form
should we con-
clude that the civil
rights mission is
complete.:
-Bruce Gordon, president of the NAACP,
about the death of Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr.'s wife, Coretta Scott King, as reported
yesterday by The Washington Post.

STEPHEN BUSCH LN.D<CRAPER

I

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All
other signed articles and illustrations represent solely the views of their author.

L~%.~?T .miwr A

Democracy for dummies
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK BORN IN THElII Ur.Av

knew before I
flicked on CNN
Tuesday night that
I wasn't going to find
that much to like in
President Bush's State
of the Union address.
' ~ Bush is fond of talk-
ing about evil; I hap-
pen to think there'd be
less evil in the world
if Dubya had never stopped drinking and was
fading away from cirrhosis at the end of a dirt
road in Texas right about now.
But more than his nonsense statement that
withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq would actu-
ally leave Osama bin Laden in control of the
country, more than the contrast between his
incoherent claim that "no one can out-produce
or out-compete the American worker" and the
slow death facing Detroit's automakers, what
bothered me most in his speech was one stupid
little line. Bush begged Congress to pass medi-
cal tort reform, "because lawsuits are driving
many good doctors out of practice - leaving
women in nearly 1,500 American counties
without a single OB/GYN."
We've all heard about the high premiums
OB/GYNs pay for malpractice insurance. So
Bush's statement makes perfect sense - it's the
evil trial lawyers' fault that the 774 residents of
Logan County, Nebraska probably don't have
their own obstetrician. Same goes for their 729
neighbors just to the north in Thomas County. It
couldn't possibly be the case that most of those
1,500 counties Bush cited don't have OB/GYNs
because they're in lightly populated rural areas.
Why, what with Nebraska's birth rate - which

is slightly higher than the national average,
mind you - there are around 11 babies born
each year in Thomas County. Almost one a
month! Plenty of business, if only we could get
those darn malpractice awards under control.
Folks who have learned not to trust anything
Bush says anymore doubtlessly caught his
intellectual dishonesty on that point without
any help. But I'd wager that most members of
the Facebook group "George W. Bush Is My
President, You Whiny Liberal!" didn't register
anything on their bullshit detectors.
That's not to say Democrats aren't prone
to saying idiotic things either. Campaigning
for the Democratic nomination in 2004, then-
Senator John Edwards said he didn't vote for
NAFTA - a completely true statement, if only
because he wasn't in Congress at the time.
So much of our political discourse is based
in blind partisanship and base appeals to emo-
tion that such stupendous distortions are par
for the course. I suppose a politician could win
some supporters to his side by engaging their
intellects and leading them to conclude he's the
best candidate. But it's so much easier - and
more effective - to appeal to voters' predjudi-
ces and fears than their reason.
Besides, building up reasonable arguments to
support a position rather than simply implying
your political enemies are in bed with terrorists
or oil executives - well, that would just be too
intellectual a level of discourse. Paul Begala,
his standing at CNN cut from co-host of Cross-
fire to guest on Anderson Cooper's show, even
argued after Bush's speech that the president
was acting too smart for his own good:
"I think one of the ways he failed is that
he's fallen into Washington jargon, which is

surprising, because he did have this wonderful
way of talking like a real person, a Texan. He
talked about competitiveness. What is that? You
know, people sitting at home just want to find a
way to pay for their kids' college costs.... The
president talked about isolationism, whatever
that is, protectionism. These are Washington
buzzwords:'
Begala's right. As a regular Beltway insid-
er - I went to Washington on a class trip
in 5th grade, and I've been back to protest
maybe three times since - I was pleased
that Bush spoke a language only those of
us in the elite could understand. At the very
least, members of Congress probably appre-
ciated that the same guy presenting them
with a legislative agenda also talked to them
like grown-ups. But the rest of the unwashed
masses? Begala, a former political advisor
to President Clinton who presumably under-
stands how to sell a message, thinks Bush's
language "was very distant and out of touch
with the real lives of real people."
You can absorb all the Enlightenment
thought you like and read Locke or Jeffer-
son till your eyes bulge out. What democracy
comes down to in this electronic age, though,
seems to be an unintellectual president mak-
ing an unintellectual speech - and still argu-
ably overshooting the electorate's standards for
political discourse. "The best argument against
democracy," Winston Churchill is reported to
have said, "is a five-minute conversation with
the average voter." The old Brit might have
been on to something.

Zbrozek can be reached
at zbro@umich.edu.

VIEWPOINT
Walk a mile in different shoes

BY JARED GOLDBERG
We take for granted the gifts blue-collar
workers and unions have given us. Since the
University cut its $1.4-million contract with the
Coca-Cola Company over winter break, critic
after critic, mostly on the conservative side, has
come out of the woodwork to complain.
"Under these circumstances, is it worth trash-
ing good, middle-class Michigan jobs for what
even members of the Coke coalition describe
as a 'symbolic victory?' I'm sure the soon-to-
be laid off Michigan workers will completely
understand," wrote Frank Manley (I'd like to buy
the world a Coke, 01/17/06). "It's easy to sign
a petition for higher minimum wages as a way
to end poverty, a stop-gap policy that neglects
the fundamental issues behind structural pov-
erty ... good works are the sine qua non of basic
activism," opines the editorial board of The
Michigan Review, the campus conservative/lib-
ertarian journal.
It is easy to shrug off the accomplishments
of student activists for labor, especially if
you don't share their politics or are complete-
ly apathetic to their cause. Recall last year
when the Graduate Employee's Organization
and the Lecturers' Employee Organization
held a campus walkout because the Uni-
versity administration was being less than
compromising during contract negotiations.
Then-Engineering freshman Ann Griffin
displayed her sentiments with a single sign,
photographed and placed in the Daily for all
to see: "GSIs: Get Your Ass Back In Class!"
How sympathetic.

But until all of us have to work in mini-
mum-wage jobs where the rules about fair
labor practices are often forgotten, we'll
never know what it is like. Until last summer,
I never appreciated these things either. I con-
sidered luxuries like a 10-minute break for
every 5 hours I worked inalienable rights.
Inalienable indeed. That particular sum-
mer I worked as a dishwasher and food pre-
parer at a national restaurant chain, one that is
known for transforming outdoorsy treats such
as s'mores to urban delicacies. Being naive as
usual, I assumed the rules and rights that I
had come to rely on in previous jobs would
apply. I could not have been more wrong.
I was not allowed to take any breaks what-
soever, though my shifts often lasted eight
hours or more. As I punched out one night, I
took note of the time on my punch-out slip of
how long I had worked: 9 hours, 59 minutes.
Food was not free, and if I wanted any foun-
tain drink, including tap water, I had to ask
the manager. The managers took breaks often
and could not be bothered when they did.
Realistically, my experiences don't even
compare to the murder of union leaders at
Coke's bottling plants in Colombia, the
deaths of miners in unsafe mines or the mil-
lions of workers who don't make a living
wage. It is clear by these examples that the
regulations and rights that so many fought
for in decades past are never set in stone. If
we don't watch it, they could be robbed from
underneath our feet.
My mother, for much of her youth, did
not look favorably on unions. Whether it

was their bureaucracy or the penchant some
had for corruption, she went through life
with the attitude that unions are not the best
solution to labor problems. And then she
joined one.
As a social worker in Wayne County's
Family Independence Agency, she joined
the state employee's union, run through the
UAW. When she finally retired, she came
through the experience on the opposite side
from which she had started. "When I saw
how employers could take advantage of
workers in spite of their contracts, I saw that
a strong union is necessary to protect work-
ers' rights," she said.
How did she come to this conclusion?
Due to laws preventing state employees
from going on strike, she saw that her union
was becoming increasingly too weak and
comfortable with the state. With a weak
union, she and her fellow workers couldn't
do anything as the state took more and more
benefits and rights away. Her weak union
had no recourse to help social workers when
instances of violence and threats became
regular occurrences.
We can all criticize the anti-Coke move-
ment, GEO, LEO and other workers-rights
campaigns. But until we walk a mile in their
shoes, we'll never know the hardships many
workers endure, the oppression they face and
the struggles they live through. And until we
do, our criticisms will be meaningless.
Goldberg is an LSA senior. He is a mem-
ber of the Daily's editorial board.

0

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Send all letters to the editor to
tothedaily rmichigandaily.corm.

Daily chose beer pong over
MLK symposium speaker
To THE DAILY:
As a debate about Michigamua - an
organization that once borrowed Native
American imagery, practices and cultural
items - unfolds on your pages, I am puz-
zled as to why there was no article about

to become involved in activism for social
change. I am proud that our University has
a national reputation as a liberal institution
on whose campus activism is possible and
vibrant. It appalls me that the Daily felt it
was more important to report on a beer pong
tournament (For two alums, beer pong not just
an excuse to drink, 01/31/2006) and a blog-
ging revolution (Blogging revolution reaches
University, 01/31/2006) - not exactly break-
ina ~we-than to fe'atiire n artil.e nn tis

Fellow Daily alum
remembers suicide victim
To THE DAILY:
I can only imagine that Jeff Druchniak felt very
alone before his apparent suicide yesterday (Student
dies after fall from parking structure, 02/01/2006).
Maybe he felt unconnected. But within hours of the
story of his death being posted, dozens of Michi-
ain Da~ily alu~mni lliemvself rcived1 a link to the

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Reggie Brown, Kevin Bunkley,
Gabrielle D'Angelo, John Davis, Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara
Gay, Jared Goldberg, Ashwin Jagannathan, Mark Kuehn, Will Kerridge, Frank Manley, Kirsty
McNamara, Rajiv Prabhakar, Matt Rose, Katherine Seid, Brian Slade, John Stiglich, Ben Tay-
lor, Jessica Teng.

I

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