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January 09, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-01-09

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4A -The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 9, 2006

OPINION

itbe aMibiwn * rntg

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
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.

NOTABLE
QUOTABLE
I have always
acted in an
ethical manner.
- Former House Majority Leader Tom
DeLay (R-Texas) in an announcement
Saturday saying he does not plan to con-
tinue in his House leadership position, as
reported yesterday by FOXnews.com.

KATIE GARLINGHOUSE l o Usr: ARREST

WOW.
.4hc.M

Jo mm

vupu a

The politics of Coke
SUHAEL MOMIN N) SUIRRENDER

T o be entirely
honest, I didn't
really take the
Coke people seriously.
Along with the majority
of students on campus,
I was often indifferent
toward the efforts of
the "Coalition to Cut
the Contract with Coca-
Cola." Indeed, there's no
need for the past tense: I still don't care too much.
Even if the University doesn't serve Coke, each one
of the 27-odd Jimmy John's stores in the square
mile around Central Campus still does. The Uni-
versity can cut its contract, the CCCCC crowd can
claim its symbolic victory for human rights and
I (along with every other University affiliate) can
still savor my favorite fizzy drink. Call me what-
ever you want, but I just can't get excited about
carbonated water.
Righteous indignation has erupted, how-
ever, from the conservative corner. A Michi-
gan Review editor wrote on his publication's
weblog: "The administration has succumbed
to radical causes, leaving students who would
just like a bottle of Sprite to walk across cam-
pus in the cold to enjoy a single beverage." A
reader posting feedback to the original Daily
news story on this issue ('U' to suspend Coke
contract in milestone decision, 12/29/2005)
wrote: "The Coke Coalition doesn't seem to
focus too much on what they claim the problem
is, instead it just sounds like they have some
kind of vendetta against Coke. Worry about
something more important like your grades or
your girl/boyfriend and stop trying to make an
utterly useless attempt to change the world."
Like I said, I'm not really passionate about

the Coke issue. But I am following it fairly
closely, and it seems to me like the explosion
from the campus Right has less to do with the
defamation of Coke and far more to do with a
preconceived hostility toward student - and
especially liberal - activism. The complaint
emanating from conservatives is yet another
permutation of a tried-and-retried mantra:
Those liberal anti-corporate socialist hippies
are at it again; (insert target here) is the victim
of rich kids who don't have to worry about nor-
mal concerns, don't understand the real world
and are making everyone suffer as a result.
The reaction to the University's decision isn't a
carefully constructed, intellectual response -
it is, by and large, a knee-jerk reaction against
progressive activism.
It isn't hard to support the. suggestion that
campus conservatives don't like student
activism. Last year, the Review attempted to
enlighten misguided activists with a edito-
rial suggesting students should focus on direct
action through service groups like K-Grams
and The Detroit Project instead of activism.
"It is interesting to consider," the paper wrote,
"how large an impact these groups make in
people's lives versus left-wing groups like the
Defend Affirmative Action Party and Anti-
War Action!, which spout off liberal rhetoric
and fail to do anything tangible for the people
who they claim are oppressed."
Wow. Service-oriented groups do more
community service than those oriented toward
political action? That isn't insightful analysis;
it's a bad argument for the preconceived notion
that student activism is useless. (More amus-
ingly, it's also an argument against editorial
pages: What's the point of wasting money to
print pages filled with rhetoric when it is so

much more productive to donate it to charity?)
With a prejudice against student activism, it's
not hard to see why the University's conser-
vative corner is mad that the Coke Coalition
pressured the University into killing its Coke
contract.
So, while I'm not passionate about the
Coke issue, I am annoyed that the conserva-
tive response, often coming from a point of
condescension, is motivated not by analysis
of the facts, but by the holier-than-thou belief
that campus liberals need to find real causes.
The Coke Coalition found a real cause - the
University's own Dispute Review Board found
the accusations against Coke to be plausible -
and pushed the University to uphold its Vendor
Code of Conduct.
The Coke contract dispute isn't a case of
off-their-rockers liberal activists harassing
the University into taking action. Accusing
successful activists of being out-of-touch and
radical isn't wise or enlightened, it's whiny.
Yeah, there may be very serious implications
for Michigan workers. And it may be entirely
true that Coke subsidiaries, not the corpora-
tion, engaged in questionable labor practices.
But raising these concerns ex post and pontifi-
cating from a position of superiority that lib-
erals don't understand the big picture doesn't
highlight the supremacy of conservatism, it
begs the question: Why didn't vocal campus
conservatives voice these concerns earlier?
Perhaps because it's easier to bitch about liberal
activism, to denounce it as extreme and discon-
nected, to scoff at it condescendingly than it actu-
ally fight against it.

Momin can be reached at
smomin@umich.edu.

VIEWPOINT
Coca-Cola is responsible for the abuse

0I

By SAYAN BHATTACHARYYA
In his viewpoint Coke killers miss the mark
(01/06/2006), Mark Kuehn argues that criti-
cism directed at the Coca-Cola Company for
the alleged abuse (including allegations of
murder) of workers and union leaders in Coca-
Coca bottling plants in Colombia is misdirect-
ed because these plants are not directly owned
by Coca-Cola.
What is the relationship of Coca-Cola to
these allegations? There is a news report
from July 20, 2001, filed by Jim Lobe of the
news agency Inter Press Service (IPS), which
seems relevant. (The full text of this fasci-
nating report from IPS is available online at:
www.commondreams.org/headlines0l/0720-
01.htm)
Lobe writes that, in a lawsuit in Miami
against Coca-Cola for killing union leaders
at the Carepa bottling plant in Colombia, the
plaintiffs have charged Coca-Cola with failing
to prevent its bottler from bringing in death
squads. According to IPS, the bottling compa-
nies themselves - Bebidas y Alimentos and
Miami-based Panamco - are also named as
defendants in this lawsuit. On May 6, 2003,
Panamco was acquired by the company Coca-
Cola FEMSA, according to a report on FEM-
SA's website.
The IPS newsreport says that "at the Carepa
bottling plant ... paramilitary forces murdered
two activists in April 1994 and then were invit-
ed by management at Bebidos y Alimentos to

come onto the premises to threaten other mem-
bers of the local SINALTRAINAL (the work-
ers' union) leadership ... Management hired
members of the paramilitaries ... They carried
out a campaign of intimidation that included
death threats against specific board members
and culminated in the murder inside the plant
of Isidro Segundo Gil in Dec. 1996."
Dan Kovalik, a lawyer, is quoted in the report
as stating that the union had repeatedly asked
Coca-Cola Colombia and the bottling compa-
ny's management for protection, but that "Coke
did nothing." In all these cases, according to
Terry Collingsworth, another lawyer quoted in
the IPS report, the bottlers effectively acted as
Coca-Cola's agent due to the degree of control
that Coca-Cola exercised over their operations
under the bottling contract. "We are confident
that if any of these plants make a mistake in
applying Coca-Cola's formula or in deliver-
ing Coke, (Coke) would be there to correct it,"
Kovalik is quoted as saying, "but in cases where
they kill union leaders, they do nothing."
It is noteworthy that, in Coca-Cola's negotia-
tions concerning the suggestion by a multi-uni-
versity consortium of which the University is a
part that Coca-Cola be independently inves-
tigated, Coca-Cola has sought that nothing
uncovered in the independent investigation be
used against Coca Cola in the ongoing lawsuit
against the company.
An analogy might help to understand the
University's response. When a University
defensive tackle was suspected of indecent

exposure more than a year ago, this suspicion
was universally held by the University to be
damaging enough to its reputation that the
tackle was dropped from the team, even while
investigations were ongoing. His case was
brought to trial only recently.
This was the right thing for the University to
have done. Everyone, including Coca-Cola and
the football player, has the right to be presumed
innocent until proved guilty. But playing foot-
ball for the University - or selling soda at the
University - is a privilege and not a right. The
University ought to revoke that privilege even if
investigations or trials are continuing. In a Dec.
29 press release, the University stated: "Based
upon Coca-Cola's inability to cooperate with
a third-party, independent review of bottling
plants in Colombia, the University is unable to
resolve concerns about the company's compli-
ance with (the University's own) Vendor Code
of Conduct." In each case, the University found
evidence that the suspected party (the defensive
tackle and the Coca-Cola company) may have
violated the University's code of conduct. As
the University states in its press release, "the
Dispute Review Board found evidence that
Coca-Cola may have violated standards of the
University's Vendor Code of Conduct." Under
the circumstances, I do not think the University
had any ethical choice but to suspend the con-
tract, just as it had no choice but to suspend the
football player.

Bhattacharyya is a Rackham student.

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Reader wants everyone to
read MCRI for themselves
To THE DAILY:
The Daily editorial Affirm Affirmative
Action (01/06/2006) makes grossly wrong
claims about the opponents of MCRI, as
well as the challenges against the initia-
tive. The editorial stated that many groups
have filed voter fraud complaints, but this
is false. The highly violent, radical and
frankly frightening organization BAMN

the Civil Rights Amendment. I encourage
everyone to read the initiative for himself,
and stop listening to the biased and igno-
rant opinions made against it.
Alanna Holt
LSA sophomore
Review of "Munich" didn't
focus on terror Israelis faced
To THE DAILY:

murder committed against innocents. A
scene from the film tells us that the differ-
ence between a civilian and a soldier is that
one is holding a gun. The athletes certainly
were unarmed civilians. Phrases used in the
review, such as "a mission to hunt down and
kill the men," "a band of Palestinian nation-
als" and "freedom of Palestinian prisoners
of war," all miss one key word: terrorists.
Call them what they are.
Also, how about mentioning the humanity
of the "assassins?" For example, how quick-

Editorial Board Members: Amy Anspach, Andrew Bielak, Reggie Brown, Gabrielle
D'Angelo, John Davis, Whitney Dibo, Milly Dick, Sara Eber, Jesse Forester, Mara Gay, Jared
Goldberg, Ashwin Jagannathan, Theresa Kennelly, Mark Kuehn, Will Kerridge, Frank
Manley, Kirsty McNamara, Rajiv Prabhakar, Matt Rose, David Russell, Katherine Seid, Brian
Slade, Imran Syed, Ben Taylor, Jessica Teng.

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