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November 01, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-01

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4A - Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

f fic i an 4 atl
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890
413 E. Huron St.
s. osAnn Arbor, MI 48104
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position oftthe Daily's editorial board. All other signed
articles and illustrations represent solely the views ofttheir authors.
Warren a sure bet
In three-way race, Rebekah Warren the best choice
Term limits prevent Chris Kolb, Ann Arbor's current
state representative, from seeking another term. Three
candidates are seeking to fill the vacant seat for state
House from the 53rd district: Democratic nominee Rebekah
Warren, Republican Erik Sheagren and socialist Matt Erard.

On Veterans
Day, our Nation
pays tribute to
those who have
proudly served
in our Armed
- PRESIDENT BUSH, in a proclamation
released by the White House yesterday
designating Nov. 5 through Nov. 11 as
National Veterans Awareness Week.
Veterans Day is not until Nov. 11,
though election day is Nov. 7.

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c o/
f~eb&.oV c~l~s-k-Isc ~sc+, so-s A~E

fter defeating City Council member
Leigh Greden (D-Ward 3) in the
August primary, Rebekah War-
ren is the heir apparent to Kolb's seat. The
53rd district leans heavily Democratic, and
Warren is all but certain to be elected.
That's not a bad thing, because War-
ren will bring more than a dozen years of
experience in Lansing to her new job. Most
recently, Warren has worked as the execu-
tive director of MARAL Pro-Choice Mich-
igan. Prior to that, she completed stints
on the staffs of two legislators, where she
focused her efforts on appropriations com-
mittees. That experience in particular
means that Warren likely already under-
stands the state budget better than many
sitting representatives.
At a time when increasing the number
of college graduates is essential for get-
ting the state out of its economic difficul-
ties, Warren will be a strong advocate for
higher education. She understands the
necessity of finding a solution to the state's
structural budget deficit and finding a way
to provide health care to the state's unin-
sured, while also stressing the importance
of long-term initiatives such as improved
public transit in making Michigan a more
desirable place to live.
Warren's Republican opponent is Erik
Sheagren, a self-employed landscaper with
no political experience save for a failed run
for the same seat in 2004. Politically, he is
one of the more conservative voices running
DHMO gag old news, on
Internet for years
While Andrew Koltonow's viewpoint (Diag
Dispatch: Do you oppose DHMO?, 10/31/2006)
was certainly interesting, I think it's odd that
he passed it off as if he came up with this idea.
Nathan Zohner, a ninth grader from Idaho Falls,
Idaho, won his school science fair in 1997 with a
project that was almost exactly the same thing.
Even he didn't come up with the idea all on his
own, as similar fake ptitions could be found
for years before that on the Internet. Andrew
certainly seems proud of his work here, but the
results shouldn't have been surprising since I'm
sure he had already heard about this nearly 10-
year-old science fair project.
Tom Regan
LSA sophomore
Granholm, DeVos both
lousy options for state
I'm sick of hearing people talk glowingly
about Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Michigan is
currently in a single-state recession under her
watch, at a time when the nation's economy is
booming. We have embarrassing unemploy-
ment (7.1 percent, tied for last in nation) and
real GDP growth rate (0.2 percent, third worst
in the nation). Blame outsourcing all you want,
but manufacturing has grown nationwide at
3.5 percent over the last four years, almost
keeping up with GDP growth. As far as our
economy goes, whatever Granholm is doing,
she is doing wrong, and it's outrageous to claim
that she deserves her job back.
That said, the Republican Party has pre-
sented a most pitiful alternative to Granholm.
I mean, the president of Amway? And he can't
even give a speech? Didn't he have to practice
when he was trying to swindle friends and
family into the most famous pyramid scheme
of all time? Give me another option!
Tim MacGuidwin
Engineering graduate student
Democracy good, but
messy and laborious'
Two articles on Tuesday's editorial page
highlight core issues in the way we conduct
In the first, James David Dickson sketches

shadows of the ballot initiative phenomenon
(Letting 'We the People' rule, 10/31/2006) with-
out committing to a line on how it bodes well
or ill. The answer to the question Dickson asks
-what could be more legitimate than the people
deciding public issues by ballot? - is a resound-
ing "Yes."
The articleimmediatelybelowit(Doyouoppose
DHMO?, 10/30/2006) provides a crucial quali-
fication: The response to Andrew Koltonow's

for state office this fall. For instance, rather
than replacing roughly half of the revenue
generated by the state's Single Business
Tax, as Republican gubernatorial candidate
Dick Devos would do, Sheagren would cut
it all. Sheagren's positions often aren't prac-
tical, and scarcely reflect the views of this
Sheagren main goal in running, though,
is to give conservative voters in Ann Arbor
a chance to voice their views on the bal-
lot. He's running in a district that he has
little chance of winning because no one
else would. While we might not agree with
much of what Sheagren has to say, we do
agree with him that voters deserve a choice,
and we commend him for stepping up to
give them one.
LSA senior Matt Erard is also challeng-
ing Warren. He'll be on the ballot with-
out a party designation, because his party
- the Socialist Party of Michigan, which he
chairs - doesn't have ballot access. Erard
hopes to use the office of state representa-
tive to promote his views, which include
public ownership of the means of produc-
tion. While this page has certainly had its
problems from time to time with the effects
of the capitalist system, we don't call for its
complete destruction. Erard does.
Ofthe three candidates running to replace
Chris Kolb, only REBEKAH WARREN
has the right combination of experience and
ideas, and the Daily endorses her for state
representative from the 53rd district.
faux petition against dihydrogen monoxide (that
is, water) shows how commonly our political
activity consists of knee-jerk responses to blunt
Citizens have the capacity to make good
decisions on issues that affect their lives. This
is the premise of any system worthy of the title
To exercise this capacity well, however, we
need information on the relevant aspects of a
given issue. We also need a mindset that sees
public decisions as meaningful and worth the
time spent thinking them through.
The issues the public faces today are vast and
complicated, and making choices about them is
messy and laborious. People with a particular
angle have an interest in obfuscation: The less a
citizen knows about the implications of a policy
and the less thought he feels the choice is worth,
the more likely he is to make an impulsive deci-
sion for one side or the other. Issue activists are
particularly insidious on this account, as bullet-
point debates on Michigan ballot proposals have
recently shown.
People at the University are in a special
position in relation to promoting meaningful
democracy. As members of an institution whose
purpose is the development of knowledge for the
betterment of human life, it is our responsibility
constantly to ask ourselves what we are doing to
enhance people's capacities for having a mean-
ingful part in governing themselves - or rather,
John A. Zinda
School of Natural Resources and
Environment graduate student
Choose long-termfix, end
affirmative action
Elisa Collins admits in her letter to the edi-
tor (Inequality demands affirmative action,
10/30/2006) that affirmative action is not the
right way to fix the problems in our education-
al system. Her only reason for wanting to keep
things as they are is that taking affirmative
action away won't fix anything. Poverty will not
go away if you keep affirmative action because
there will be no need to fix that problem if we
keep affirmative action.
The students of certain ethnicities who live
in poverty-stricken areas won't have a problem
because affirmative action will step in and send
them to college and allow them to have a better
education - except that when they get to college,
they will be at a huge disadvantage because they
are not adequately prepared to face its rigors.
The "band-aid" that Collins suggests prevents
us from trying to fix the problem long term. We

know what the long-term fix is: Overhaul the
education system. The problems are due to dis-
parities in socioeconomic levels. If we're going
to help anyone, then, let's help the poor and dis-
Affirmative action has been in place long
enough. It's time to vote to end it and to fix the
real problems.
Sharmili Hazra

Taking one for democracy
M ichigan's 53rd state House Warren - and I'm pretty sure Shea- he thinks we're still on the part of the
district has been around for gren would do the same. In fact, he Laffer curve where state revenues will
more than 40 years, and a has, telling The Ann Arbor News his go up if we just slash taxes. If Michigan
Republicanhas represented itforseven chances of victory are "slim." Warren's had more politicians like Sheagren, our
- the first seven. It's no mystery why: party affiliation lines up with a healthy government would be kinder and more
The district is most of the city of Ann majority of Ann Arbor voters, and she's honest, though the state would prob-
Arbor, along with got him beat in experience, campaign ably go bankrupt.
some 300 voters in tactics and fundraising. (Warren has But despite our differences of opin-
bordering town- blasted through more than $80,000 ion, I respect Sheagren. Ann Arbor is
ships. We all know this election cycle, mostly to defeat fortunate to have a number of residents
that Ann Arbor Leigh Greden this summer. Sheagren who devote hours each week to make
residents are, by filed a waiver, anticipating he would their community better, and Sheagren
nature, terrified of raise less than $1,000.) may not have the time to top the list of
candidates with an As a candidate, Sheagren isn't par- these super-Ann Arborites. But there's
"R" by their name. ticularly good at public speaking, and also something admirable, though per-
How else do you EMILY he seemed frightened at the idea of haps rarely acknowledged, in running
explainthat, among actually winning. He admits he doesn't for elected office purely for the sake
the entirely Demo- BEAM have the answers -to a lot of voters' of making our democracy a little more
cratic City Council, questions. But he is sincere and has a democratic.
two sitting members switched parties platform that won't be represented in A recent poll by Pew Charitable
after originally running as a Republi- Matt Erard's or Warren's campaigns Trusts found that 58 percent of young
cans? - straight-up fiscal and social conser- Americans are civically disengaged,
Given that the Green Party stands a vatism. meaning that out of the 19 ways the
better chance of victory in the fightin' Sheagren may not be an ideal politi- pollsters considered as participation
53rd than the Republicans, it's unsur- cian, but he is a good citizen. Ann Arbor in political and community life, nearly
prising that the House race has gone residents aren't just grown-up ver- three-fifths couldn't name two things
the way of City Council. Every two sions of the stereotypical liberal Uni- they did. More than a quarter couldn't
years, there's a hotly contested Demo- versity student. (Well, not all of them.) name any. It wasn't just voting and
cratic primary in August, followed There really are Republicans out there writing angry letters that counted -
by an anticlimactic race between the - enough to have given Sheagren 20 anythingfromvolunteeringtowearing
winner and one or two brave souls percent of the vote against then-incum- a button to being a member of a group
from the more peripheral parties bent Chris Kolb in the 2004 election. was considered engagement.
- the Green Party, the U.S. Taxpay- But without a Republican candidate, Reading these rather abysmal sta-
ers, a Natural Law candidate or maybe it's a choice between a Democrat (the tistics, I felt pretty smug about being
even a Republican. This year, the race horror!) and Erard's proposals for a registered as an Ann Arbor voter - my
for the 53rd district actually boasts a 100-percent capital flight tax and a $15 voter registration card is certainly a
real, live socialist candidate. (Not your minimum wage - which are mere tran- sign that I am an exemplary citizen.
run-of-the-mill, universal-health-care sitional demands to encourage the rise But after sitting down with Sheagren
socialist; I mean a start-the-people's- of the proletariat, of course. last week, I realized that if we show up
revolution socialist.) The House race The landscaper from Ann Arbor isn't to vote on Tuesday, yes, the poll work-
isn't exactly Ann Arbor City Council, running to win; he's running to give ers will likely hand us nice "I voted"
however, and voters also get to play voters a choice. If that's not fulfilling stickers - but showing up is really the
in the traditional party rivalry, with your civic duty, I don't know what is. least we can do.
Republican Erik Sheagren taking on I disagree with Sheagren on just
Democrat Rebakah Warren. about everything. He's very much a Emily Beam is a Daily editorial
I'm no political analyst, but I have Republican; I'm not. I think cutting page editor. She can be reached
little hesitation in calling this one for state taxesfurther would be disastrous; at beam@michigandaily.com.

The real Borat

If early reviews are any indication,
"Borat: Cultural Learnings of America
for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of
Kazakhstan" is goingto be huge. News-
week proclaimed the film "uproarious."
David McCoy of MSM Movies labeled
the Borat character - a Kazakhstani
journalist created by British comic
Sacha Baron Cohen - "funny as hell."
A cult following has developed on the
Web, and Cohen's over-the-top accent
currently floats around college cam-
puses, replete with references to the U.
S. and A., horses, sisters and prostitutes.
It's a nice!
Here in Kazakhstan, the storm has
yet to hit shore. This is partly because
Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked
country in the world, but it has more
to do with Kazakhstan's government
- which has been extremely critical of
Cohen, even threatening to take legal
action against him. Chances of the
movie opening in theaters are remote,
especially since Otau Cinema - the
country's largest theater chain - has
banned the film. However, once the
pirated DVDs begin to emerge (prob-
ably before the official release), some
Kazakhstanis will see the film, and
many will react with indignation simi-
lar to that displayed by their govern-
ment. In some ways, they are right to
be upset. We still suggest you see the
film, but would like you to go in with
a slightly more sophisticated under-
standing of Kazakhstan.
Borat himself is a misogynistic,
anti-Semitic, incestuous bigot fond
of "gypsy hunting." Obviously, he is
not an accurate representation of the
Kazakh or Kazakhstani people. The
term "Kazakhstani" is a post-Social-
ist construct, meant to encompass the
more than 100 ethnic groups that now
call Kazakhstan home. The Kazakhs
themselves are an ancient race with a
history they are only now beginning
to rediscover and reinvent in the wake
of the Soviet collapse. Despite the vio-

lence suggested by the Borat character,
it is telling that, though their history
is rich with legends, conquerors and
kings (including Genghis Khan, whose
blood runs strong here) the Kazakhs
have chosen Abai - a writer, philoso-
pher and poet - as their most esteemed
historical figure.
Regarding Borat's sexism and refer-
ences to age of consent, Kazakhstan is
nowhere near as backward as Cohen
portrays.Women's rights are an impor-
tant issue in Kazakhstan. True, there
are many housewives, and women tend
to marry younger (particularly among
the Turkish minority), yet incest and
prostitution are almost never encoun-
tered. The former is so rare that our
Russian translator could not think of
the word for it, and the latter is less
common here than in many American
cities. If anything, Kazakhstanis are
more conservative about sexuality
than Americans.
Ironically, the country of origin
Cohen chose for his raging anti-Semite
is perhaps the least anti-Semitic one
in the region - far less so than Rus-
sia. Even the Anti-Defamation League,
a group dedicated to fighting genuine
anti-Semitism, has leapt to Kazakh-
stan's defense. In a recent press release,
the ADL stated, "It is unfortunate that
Mr. Cohen chose to make jokes at the
expense of Kazakhstan."
Of course, Cohen is an extremely
bright and talented comedian. Some
of his pieces have surprising tidbits
of accuracy, causing observers here to
suspect Cohen of employing a Kazakh
writer. The shiny Chinese suits, the
occasional word of genuine Kazakh
thrown into the gibberish and the way
his voice rises uncontrollably at the
end of sentences all speak to a deeper
knowledge of Kazakhstan than simply
being able to find it on a map.
That raises a final point concern-
ing the Borat character. It does not
really matter that he is a Kazakh

from Kazakhstan. He could just as
easily be Kyrgyz, Dagestani, Uzbek,
or Tazliti. Did you know we made up
that last one? Exactly. Most Ameri-
cans - indeed, most people outside of
the post-Soviet, post-Socialist Central
Asia - know almost nothing about the
Were Borat from Greece or Nigeria
or Thailand, Americans might have at
least some idea of his origins and carry
Borat's humor relies
on our ignorance
of Kazakhstan.
some pre-conceived notions into their
interviews. With a "journalist" from
CentralAsia, however, they are open to
just about anything, as his ridiculous
encounters reveal. This speaks less to
Kazakhstani peculiarity than Ameri-
can ignorance - which is the purpose
of the film.
With far less access to the Internet
and English television, Kazakhstan
today is nearly Borat-free. In all our
conversations with Kazakhstanis,
the most common response to "What
do you think of Borat?" was "What is
that?" In fact, when a serious cross-
cultural conversation does occur,
Kazakhstanis are much more likely to
mention George Bush, the war in Iraq
and their dislike of both. You see, they
aren't so different from Americans
after all.
The writers are two foreign nationals
living in Kazakhstan, who have been
granted anonymity out of concern
that the repressive Kazakhstan
government might deport them for
discussing Cohen's movie publicly.





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