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October 02, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-10-02

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 2, 2006

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OPINION

DONN M. FRESARD
Editor in Chief

EMILY BEAM JEFEBLO R
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK JEFFREY BLOOMER
Editorial Page Editors Managing Editor
EDITED AND MANAGED BY STUDENTS AT
THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN SINCE 1890
413 E. HURON
iY ANN AREOR, MI 48104
Iothedoily@michigandoily.com

Code-word campaign
Politics, the English language and MCRI

Sensationalism and the smooth lan-
guage of deceit are nothing new
in the world of politics. One need
not explain the proliferation of language
games in the month before election day -
a politically charged time in which every-
thing is a code word for something else,
and truth seems hard to find. However,
the wholesale co-opting and reversal of a
canon of keywords and phrases common-
ly associated with the Civil Rights Move-
ment of the 1960s by the Michigan Civil
Rights Initiative creates a problem greater
than that of the proper use of the English
language. In the case of MCRI, the mes-
sages the initiative's backers convey to
voters are so maligned with conflated ant-
onyms that the group's actual arguments
cannot be reasonably deduced.
The MCRI campaign favors incendi-
ary statements that spark the ire of unin-
formed voters and deny them a reasoned
presentation of fact. Brian Pannebecker,
the co-chair of the Macomb County
MCRI, declared in a letter to the Escanaba
Daily Press that Michigan "still (has) a
state policy that discriminates against
more-qualified applicants in favor of less-
qualified Blacks." His reductionist diatribe
appears to incite racism to rally support
for Proposal 2 - not exactly the color-
blind worldview that the MCRI's homep-
age conjures up. Pannebecker's letter veils
and simplifies the facts, but other MCRI
productions simply ignore them.
Pro-MCRI advertisements prey upon
popular ignorance of the history of civil
rights legislation and misconstrue the nature
of the University's current affirmative
action system. A three-part radio ad series
produced by MCRI adheres to a rough tri-
umvirate of values that set the standard for
all MCRI productions: "fairness, "equal-
1ty and the old plitical staple, lies. The
second ad in the series speaks directly to
claims that MCRI confuses voters with its
deliberately imprecise use of Civil Rights-
era language. It espouses that "Proposal
Two bans government quotas and restores
fairness" - a declaration that is incorrect
and irrelevant to the proposal, since out-
right quotas were banned by the Supreme
Court in Bakke v. Regents of the University
of California in 1978. The statement is not
only intentionally deceptive, but it is iterat-
ed strongly in every MCRI radio ad to lend
the distortion an aura of legitimacy.
The third radio ad, titled "I'm Proud,"
perverts the facts of the Jennifer Gratz
case and appeals to human hearts by
suffocating the demands of reason. Fea-
turing Brad Gratz, the proud father of Jen-
nifer Gratz, the ad espouses the story of
how the hard-working Gratz was "denied
admission because she had the wrong skin
color." The ad ignores the fact that Gratz
was offered a spot on the waiting list but
never accepted it. Incidentally, all Michi-

gan residents who accepted a spot on the
waiting list in the year Gratz applied were
admitted to the College of Literature, Sci-
ence, and the Arts. These facts are minor
trivialities if one isn't using a single per-
son's experiences to spearhead a statewide
effort. But when that is the case, the dis-
tortion becomes nefarious.
MCRI touts "I'm Proud" as the ad that
is "so effective our opponents don't want
you to hear it." The ad is effective - if
deceiving listeners into believing a docu-
mented lie can be called effectiveness.
The facts of the political battle that
MCRI is waging should be clear enough
- arguments against any type of govern-
ment-supported affirmative action policy
have been around for decades. However,
the initiative's use of factually incorrect
statements and grossly misrepresentative
polemics - using language commonly
associated with pro-minority and pro-
affirmative action groups - undermines
the democratic process at large. The rheto-
ric of MCRI leaves the burden of proof on
the electorate, which makes the process of
becoming an enlightened voter more pre-
carious than ever before.
Fortunately for voters, more truthful
resources are available. In light of the
semantic battles surrounding the MCRI
campaign, the University's Center for the
Study of Complex Systems has produced a
"Decision-Making Guide to the Michigan
Civil Rights Initiative." The guide seeks
to provide an "objective and non-partisan,
easy-to-use and personalized tool" allow-
ing readers to make sense of the "compet-
ing and conflicting claims" surrounding
the proposal. Furthermore, the Universi-
ty's Center for the Education of Women
has produced studies predicting the effects
of MCRI on employment, education and
contracting.
These considerations of the de facto
consequences of the proposed
amendment should be what domi-
nate airwaves - not sentimental linguis-
tic equations engineered by Papa Gratz
that substitute the politically charged "had
the wrong skin color" for the more mun-
dane "forgot to mail in her waiting list
reply card." It seems the MCRI campaign
shies away from telling the truth because
the truth - a hard-knock lesson about the
consequences of one's action, or rather,
inaction - doesn't necessitate a change as
radical as amending the state constitution.
Slick semantic substitutions by pro-
ponents of MCRI build a crooked and
self-sustaining argument that rests on a
foundation of lies. The campaign's obfus-
cation of its own already questionable
tenets - dirtying its politics with sen-
sationalist lies that confuse rather than
explain - should be enough to make vot-
ers wary.

NOTABLE QUOTABLE
You do not create terrorism
by fighting terrorism."
-President Bush, responding to criticism that the war in Iraq has made the
United States more susceptible to terrorism, as reported yesterday by CNN.com.
The happy end to capitalism
SAM BUTLER
Comrades, the end of or shopping online. There is a torrent of books on the
capitalism is at hand, subject, where we are called "Generation Me," "Gen-
and Expedia.com eration Debt" and just simply "Strapped." If you want
will be the vanguard of the to know more, these books are available on Amazon.
revolution. cm. Be sure to use your frequent buyer's discount.
If I may condense one of Karl Marx told us that modern people only truly
the most important sociologi- live in those brief hours between work shifts. It seems
cal works in history to just a we listened to him and are now determined to not
few sentences, Max Weber's let work dictate how we live our lives. However, our
"The Protestant Ethic and the retreat from capitalism has not been supplanted by an
'Spirit' of Capitalism" explains increased dedication to social activism. The corporate
how modern capitalism emerged from the combination self-advancing businessman is considered selfish, yet
of the Protestant commitment to personal labor and dis- we take no action to ameliorate concentrated poverty.
couragement of lavish spending. Unable to spend money One has to wonder: Where do we invest those enlight-
on themselves and, unlike Catholics, their churches, ened ideas obtained through all our book reading and
Protestants had no choice but to reinvest their earnings globetrotting? Do we do these things only to spur our
into their businesses. Money was not made for spending, conversations at the bar?
but for the sake of making more money. If there is a virtue in the capitalist spirit, it is that it
Availed of the puritanical guilt of leisure spending, necessitates empowerment and a local civic discourse.
our generation has turned fun seeking into the driving A market economy forces the capitalist to interact with
force of our country's economy. This can be seen in the his neighbors and therefore acquire a societal aware-
way young people look for a job after college. Observ- ness. You have to know what people want if you're
ing the urban migration habits of college graduates, going to sell them anything. It is in a capitalist's self-
sociologists like Richard Florida contend that young interest to be an active member of the community and
adults choose a residential location first and then search although the capitalist doesn't necessarily feel a social
for nearby jobs. A city's bar scene, concert venues and responsibility, he is at least a social participant.
mountain bike trails take priority over its career oppor- Socialism, capitalism's historical alternative, also
tunities. If the spirit of capitalism was that one only fosters civic awareness. Communal living, by defini-
lived to work, today we have shifted to a cultural con- tion, requires social consciousness. In an egalitarian
text where we only work to live. society where one's livelihood depends on others,
Therefore, have we put an end the spirit of capital- guiding the course of the community's future is not
ism? only a right, but an obligation. The archetypical
If the 1980s were dominated by a yuppie Gordon young socialistbhas a faith in his ability to better his
Gekko style of greed, today we exhibit a granola-hippy surroundings. His resources are spent toward both
style of greed. We lust not for material, but cultural learning about and ameliorating the problems within
capital. We measure success not by our annual income, his community.
but by how many European countries we have visited, However, neither of these terms applies to our gen-
how many concerts we've heard and how many bars eration. If we are neither capitalists nor socialists, then
we frequent. We no longer seek streets that are paved what are we?
with milk and honey but instead those that flow with The only ideology we subscribe to is ourselves. Con-
caffeine and cocktails. We want the bourgeois life- sequently, we isolate and disenfranchise ourselves from
style, but consider anyone actively seeking that status the decisions affecting our communities. We spend so
shallow. much time and money enlightening ourselves in order
In the face of mountainous student loans caused by to be more aware of society's ills, yet do nothing about
skyrocketing tuition costs, the only way young people them. Of course, as long as there is pleasure to be had,
can maintain the desired lifestyle is the credit card. We we don't care about being politically apathetic. If this is
expect more than instant gratification - we expect per- a depressing thought, don't worry - buying that new
petual gratification. According to the Federal Reserve, album online will cheer you right up. Man, it certainly
the average credit card debt for 25- to 34-year-olds has is a brave new world.
tripled in the last 20 years. Yet our Atlas-like burden__
of debt still doesn't stop us from buying cruise tickets Butler can be reached at butlers@umich.edu.
VIEWPOINT
Self-defense is not a crime
By AMANDA HooPER and self-defense seems clear. A is abysmal: Two women affili-
woman kills an abusive husband ated with the Clemency Project
University students and facul- or boyfriend who threatens to have died within the past month,
ty, along with community mem- kill her if she leaves - and who in part due to neglect of impor-
bers from across the state, will nearly kills her while she stays tant medical concerns. Many
rally this Friday on the steps of - and the criminal-legal system mentally ill prisoners, along with
the Capitol in Lansing. Unlike fails to identify this as valid self- others, are chained down in seg-
most demonstrators during this defense. The woman is convicted. regation units. In a recent catas-
fall midterm election season, All her appeals are denied. Only trophe, a young man died in a
they will be showing support not clemency is left. pool of his own sweat and urine
for a political candidate or party, The Battered Women's Clem- while chained down in a segrega-
but instead for a group whose ency Project currently represents tion unit that reached 106 degrees
issues are significantly less vis- 20 women with petitions for at Southern Michigan Prison in
ible in the public arena: battered clemency and hundreds of oth- Jackson.
women convicted of murder for ers in various ways, by support- Our legal system has failed
killing their abusers. ing parole, appeals and adherence women; our prisons violate their
The Battered Women's Clem- to human rights. The petitions basic human rights. Along with
ency Project was founded by will be submitted to Gov. Jen- Clemency Project supporters,
Susan Fair and is directed by a nifer Granholm, who will make students in Jacobsen's Women's
professor at the University, Carol decisions about whether to grant Studies/Art and Design 344

Jacobsen. The Clemency Project clemency - which could mean "Human Rights and Bodies in the
works on behalf of women sur- release or shortened sentences World" class will attend the rally,
vivors of domestic violence who - for each case. This summer, demonstrating solidarity and call-
killed abusive partners in self- Granholm denied all clemency ing for change through posters,
defense, but did not receive a fair petitions on her desk; this fall, performance and other projects.
trial and were convicted of murder the Clemency Project will submit The October 6 rally will send a
and sentenced accordingly, often them again, accompanied with message to the Governor, and
for life. Injustice in these cases new materials and evidence. It is bring visibility to these issues.
came from the failure of the legal important that supporters make a Self-defense is not a crime. Sen-
system - prosecutors, judges, strong showing for these women tencing a survivor of violence to
jury instructions and even defense who have been abused by their life is not justice, nor is subject-
attorneys - to recognize these partners, wronged by the legal ing prisoners to inhumane con-
women's acts as self-defense. system and have served numerous ditions. These issues have fallen
During the past few decades, years toward sentences they did under the public radar for far too
domestic violence has shifted in not deserve. long. We must break the silence,
the public discourse from a strict- Once in prison, abuse contin- and the time is now.
ly private issue to one of public ues. Prisons in the state of Michi-
concern. Legal understandings gan are among the worst in the Hooper is an LSA junior,
of domestic violence lag behind nation, according to reports by a member of Prof. Carol
in this transition, leaving bat- Amnesty International, Human Jacobsen's class and a
tered women vulnerable. A man Rights Watch and other organiza- participant in the Battered
kills an assailant in a bar fight, tions. Medical care for prisoners Women's Clemency Project.
KATIE GARLINGHOUSE Cs >ARRE-T
t*
-C

I

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Send all letters to the editor to tothedaily@michigandaily.com.

Democracy in Iraq might not
be worth the cost to America
TO THE DAILY:
I am responding to Reggie Brown's viewpoint,
Progress in Iraq (09/29/2006). The article misses
the point of political criticism of the war in Iraq
because it focuses on ambiguous projections,
rather than on the process and its repercus-
sions. Efforts in Iraq were illegitimate because
they reflected a disregard for the significance
of international organizations such as the Unit-
ed Nations - unlike the war in Afghanistan,
which garnered support from the international
community. Operation Freedom's greatest allies
are two countries that currently are in as much
political turmoil as the Bush Administration:
Israel and Great Britain. The consequences are
a shift from international respect and sympathy
for our wounded nation to a bashing of our iden-
tity as overzealous cowboys.
Let's face it - with the resurgence of Europe
JOHN OQUIST LJV ,N 'CU: FVI

and Russia, along with China's economic growth,
the United States cannot approach international
affairs as it did in the 1950s. It must make deci-
sions based on substantiated evidence and inter-
national legitimacy.
If there is a lesson that the Bush Adminis-
tration has learned in its second term, it is that
commendable ideologies (i.e. democracy) are
inconsequential if the processes set up to garner
international cooperation are neglected.
The war has put fiscal strains on our recov-
ery effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
Our focus on Iraq has led to an intensification of
opium production and resurgence of the Taliban
in southern Afghanistan. Finally, the dislodging
of two regimes in the region and overextension
of the United States has also exposed us to an
even greater threat, Iranian nuclear prolifera-
tion. Yes, Brown may be right - Iraq could be
a democracy within five years. But I ask, at what
expense?
Phillip Azachi
LSA senior

A

CONGRESSMAN MARK FOLEY'S LEWD ONLINE HEY WHAT ABOUT PASSAGE THIS WEEK OF WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
EXCHANGE WITH A TEENAGE MALE PAGE A BILL THAT WILL BEGIN CONSTRUCTION OF I DON'T KNOW.ANYWAY, I'LL NOW READ
IS THE MOST IMPORTANT GODDAMNED THING BOTH BARRIERS BETWEEN THE US AND EXCERPTS FROM FOLEY'S INSTANT MESSAGES
TO HAPPEN INTHE LAST EE YEARSI LET'S MEXICO AND DETENTION CENTERS FOR WHEN TALKING TO A TEEN ABOUT HIS
STOP THE WHOLE WORLD OVER THISI ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS? CLOTHES, HE SAYS, "LOVE To SLIP THEM OFF
OF YOU.' DEAR LORD IN HEAVENI

a

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