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November 21, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-21

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4 - Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Michigan Daily - michiganclaily.com

myMi I*gan Bjail
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890
413 E. Huron St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

DONN M. FRESARD
EDITOR IN CHIEF

EMILY BEAM
CHRISTOPHER ZBROZEK
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS

JEFFREY BLOOMER
MANAGING EDITOR

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
Power-hungry coeds
MSA elections sacrifice substance for procedure
The cartographers of old seem to have hit upon a win-
ning metaphor for success, political and otherwise
- redraw the same old forms with different names and
boundaries, and you've got yourself a new map. The Michigan
Action Party has swept student government elections, winning
every LSA Student Government seat and the majority of other
contested seats in the Michigan Student Assembly. In the after-
math of yet another complacent student government election,
MSA should reclaim its role as the representative government
of a highly politicized student body - and should temper its
concerns accordingly.

I and senior management agree with the American
public that this was an ill-considered project."
- News Corporation Chairman RUPERT MURDOCH, announcing his decision to cancel O.J. Simpson's book "If I Did
It," a "fictional" account of how Simpson would have killed his wife, as reported yesterday by CNN.com.
ERIN RUSSELL |
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EINSTAT E ni IF FH EIB CHILOR'EN EQUAury l O F CANAaAN UItFE.
MIUIAPY A BEEN 09AFTEW. PATriOTISM.
WRAFT,
- -
The danger of ipar'tisns

4

a

Although this fall's MSA elections saw
a newly reconstituted alphabet soup enter
the political arena - MAP in place of the
now-defunct Students 4 Michigan Party,
the Student Liberty Party, the Defend
Affirmative Action Party and the dog-
gedly endearing Hungry Hungry Coeds.
com Party - the flavor of said soup has not
changed. MSA elections still conjure up
the same stale images of lofty overtures to
nothing in particular greeted by a remark-
able silence on the part of the student
body. It is difficult to tell what is more dis-
turbing - the HungryHungryCoeds.com
Party's inability to gather student support
with promises of free food, or the fact that
MAP, an old party with a new name, could
manage to change its face and still main-
tain its dynastic rule.
The distance between the University's
student populace and its elected represen-
tatives wouldn't be so distressing if MSA
were really as inconsequential as its candi-
dates' claims may make it appear. Howev-
er, the fact of the matter remains that MSA
controls a budget of roughly $500,000
- almost entirely composed of student
activity fees that each student pays. MSA,
dominated by S4M-turned-MAP as it may
be, needs to make a concerted effort to
make its proceedings intelligible to the

student body. Moreover, it should make its
resolutions and projects interesting.
However much MSA candidates and
parties need to improve, this fall's election
cycle saw considerable innovation in elec-
tioneering techniques. The relative infre-
quency of party spam made for a happier
student body while presenting potential
MSA candidates with a creative dilemma
- how to encourage student voting when
the most conspicuous initiatives irritated
and turned students away? Laptop voting
stations in Angell Hall served as an inno-
vative way to bring the election process
directly to the students - even if the pro-
cedure of the politics obscured an empty
core.
All politicians walk a fine line, but MSA
walks the line between dynastic rule and
apolitical leadership guild - both forms of
government miles away from the ideal of
a representative student assembly. Stand-
ing for something rather than promising
everything and signifying, well, nothing is
immensely preferred. But the uncomfort-
able political pauses spent pondering the
ubiquitous crisis in student government
will never last long. There will always be
the cruel rumbling of a stomach to remind
us that we're still looking for a party that
delivers - whether pizza or politics.

conservative friend of mine
once told me he didn't believe
in democracy. After telling me
he voted for Bush because he didn't
think we should switch leaders during
wartime, he said: "Look at history. Our
culture is in decline. Our leaders are cor-
rupt. Do you really think democracy can
work in this deca-
dent society?" The
implication was
clear: We need a
dictator, not just
to protect us from '5<
our enemies, but to
save us from our-
selves.
As the new
Democratic Con- TOBY
gress prepares MITCHELL
to take office, a
chorus of pundits is calling for biparti-
sanship. We're told that all sides have
something to contribute to the debate
over exactly how much of the Constitu-
tion we should throw away. But like my
friend, the modern Republican Party is
not conservative but authoritarian.
How could American citizens hold
such anti-democratic views? Following
the Second World War, Theodor Adorno
asked the same question in "The Author-
itarian Personality."Would a significant
number of Americans be susceptible to
"fascistic" ideologies? Participants in
this extensive psychological study were
ranked based on their response to state-
ments such as:
* "Obedience andrespectfor author-
ity are the most important virtues chil-
dren should learn."
" "Homosexuality is a particularly
rotten form of delinquency and ought to
be severely punished."
" "Too many people today are liv-
ing in an unnatural, soft way; we should
return to the fundamentals, to a more
red-blooded, active way of life."
The study took pains to distinguish
principled conservatism from the author-
itarian fear of weakness and identifica-

tion with strength. The book's essential
insight is still relevant today:Authoritar-
ians see threats everywhere and demand
strong leaders to protect them precisely
because those threats are inside them
and therefore never disappear.
Ted Haggard's recent disgrace is a
prime example. While tirelessly blast-
ing gays in public, this prominent leader
of the Christian right was apparently
having meth-fueled orgies with a homo-
sexual prostitute. He's hardly alone;
Rush Limbaugh bemoaned America's
moral decay while sending his maid to
pick up black-market drugs, and alco-
hol seems to have released Mel Gibson's
inner anti-Semite and Mark Foley's hid-
den pervert.
These revelations are not surprising.
Since their rigid morality denies impuls-
es that other people develop socially
acceptable means of expressing, author-
itarians must project these compulsions
outward: "It's not me that's sick; it's
everyone else!" It's especially handy if
society has a ready stock of acceptable
scapegoats, e.g. Muslims, immigrants,
atheists and queers. As Sen. Rick Santo-
rum (R-Penn.) showed, anti-gay bigots
are often more obsessed with gay sex
than the horniest homosexuals.
American Christian conservatives
are especially susceptible to authoritar-
ian ideology. Their Puritanical upbring-
ing sows a rich field of repression and a
corresponding need for strong control.
As a southern Republican on CNN said,
"There are some people, and I'm one
of them, that believe George Bush was
placed where he is by the Lord. I don't
care how he governs, I will support
him."
The Bush Administration feeds this
base's fears - the terrorists are every-
where, they're watching, they're ready
to pounce at any sign of weakness. As
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
recently reminded us, questioning the
President's illegal domestic spying pro-
gram "is itself a grave threat to the liber-
ty and security of the American people."

Some Democrats have internalized
the authoritarian right's bullying. Hill-
ary Clinton is bending over backward to
show how conservative she can be. Two
Michigan Daily columnists recently
argued that the Democratic Congress
needs to appear bipartisan on terror and
Iraq, parroting the Right's own criti-
cism of anyone who doesn't share their
hysteria. The call for bipartisanship fits
the insipid pseudo-tolerance many lib-
Republicans are
authoritarians, not
conservatives.
erals espouse: "Let's listen and under-
stand the bully. He was probably abused
as a child."
There are fundamental democratic
values that simply cannot be compro-
mised. Bigotry is wrong. Torture is
wrong. Unilateral war is so wrong we
fought two world wars and invented the
United Nations to try to end it. The NSA
spying program must be curtailed, the
CIA secret prisons closed and congres-
sional investigative power asserted with
rigor. Bipartisanship with conserva-
tives is fine, but the authoritarian move-
ment that has taken over the Republican
Party must be destroyed.
The American system is not so per-
fect that the temptation to surrender
freedom toa Caesar is foreign to us. Ide-
ologies that deny choice, whether those
of terrorists or of the American authori-
tarians obsessed with them, do not
deserve our respect, our understanding
or our tolerance. And it is up to each of
us to demand that liberty is never aban-
doned for the reassuring slumber of
blind obedience.
Toby Mitchell can be reached
at tojami@umich.edu.

is

SEND LETTERS TO: TOTHEDAILY@MICHIGANDAILY.COM

Students exceed 400 pages
'every damn semester'
TO THE DAILY:
I pay extra money every damn semester
because I go over my printing limit halfway
through the semester. Four hundred pages is
not enough when every class goes through more
than 60 slides on PowerPoint.
Patrick Wycihowski
LSA senior
Microcredit an effective tool
that deserves U.S. support
TO THE DAILY:
On Dec. 10, the Nobel Committee will award
the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize to a great
visionary who proved to the world that very
poor women are a good credit risk: Muhammad
Yunus, founder of the Grameen Bank of Bangla-
desh. Thirty years ago, Yunus began the process
of providing tiny loans to very poor people so
that they could start up or expand small busi-
nesses and thereby care for their families' health
and nutrition.

About 20 years ago, the anti-poverty lobby-
ing group RESULTS (which now has a chapter
on campus) began advocating for funding for
microcredit loans in Congress and at the World
Bank via letters and meetings. Largely because
of these efforts, more than 100 million people
around the world are now utilizing microcredit
loans to escape the cycle of poverty.
Unfortunately, there are millions more very
poor people who live on less than a dollar a day,
mainly in Africa, who still lack access to micro-
credit. Despite the fact that the U.S. Congress
has prioritized microcredit for the very poor,
our U.S. Agency for International Development
has yet to comply with congressional directives
to ensure that very poor people are not denied
this opportunity to turn their lives around. The
World Bank too, despite repeated prompting by
Congress, spends less than 1 percent of its huge
budget on microcredit.
Now that Yunus's microcredit miracle in Ban-
gladeshhas beengiventhe international recogni-
tion that it deserves, maybe it's time that USAID
and the World Bank step up and mobilize their
full capabilities to provide microcredit to the
very poor.
Lisa Treumuth
Pharmacy
The letter writer is a member of the University
chapter ofRESULTS.

RACHEL WAGNER
Don't blame Yorktown

ALEXANDER HONKALA

Most people have never heard of my hometown because
Yorktown, a suburb of New York City in northern West-
chester County, rarely makes it on to the national radar.
When a friend recently told me that a New York Times
article mentioned my town, I immediately checked it out,
curious to see what sort of coverage Yorktown received.
The article featured families who moved from New York
City to Westchester County for the highly regarded public
school system - only to find themselves dissatisfied with
schools that didn't live up to their reputation. My rush
of excitement quickly soured when two families hurled
insults at the Yorktown public school system: "uninspir-
ing," "unresponsive" and "unimaginative."
Other districts were criticized in the article too, tar-
geted for having crowded classrooms, "barebones arts
and sports programs" and teachers who taught to the test.
Having spent my entire K-12 education in Yorktown Pub-
lic Schools, though, these harsh judgments didn't seem to
match up with my generally positive experience. Granted,
Yorktown schools are far from perfect, yet it seems that
individual public schools are taking flak for problems
caused at a national, not a local, level.
The federal government's No Child Left Behind Act
of 2001 aimed to make public schools more account-
able through standardized testing and school choice for
families in failing districts, but NCLB hurt public educa-
tion more than it helped. This doesn't leave Westchester
schools or any other public school system completely free
of blame for their shortcomings, but parents and students
should understand that many of problems in their local
schools result from complying with federal programs, not
from local ineptitude and neglect.
NCLB mandates annual testing in reading and math
in grades 3 through 8 and once during high school, with
the addition of science to the list by end of the 2007-2008
school year. These provisions have created an educational
system obsessed with standardized testing rather than
imparting real and diverse knowledge. Teachers teach
to the test because of pressure on schools to exceed state
testing benchmarks - not necessarily because they are
unoriginal.
The narrowing of school curricula allots less time to
social studies and foreign languages in favor of reading
and math, while inadequate funding has led to disastrous
cuts in athletic and arts programs. In light of misguided

federal policy, complaints must be leveled at national law
instead of individual public school systems.
The New York Times piece did more, though, than just
increase my distaste for current education policy. In the
article, disappointed parents pulled their children out of
the public schools to drive them to prestigious, pricey pri-
vate schools as far away as New York City. What happens,
though, in public school districts that actually are failing
where parents can't afford to send their kids elsewhere?
Westchester County, like many other communities, has
found itself insulated where the best is the best and the
worst is still pretty good. I used to complain about lack-
luster teachers and the possible elimination of my eight-
person advanced placement French program at my high
school until I realized that the same federal laws affecting
my school had a far greater effect on other public schools
on a grander and more disturbing scale.
Consider Detroit's public school system, for example.
Out of 225 public schools, 103 failed to meet NCLB stan-
dards, and the district lost an estimated 25,000 students
this fall alone, partly due to NCLB option of school choice
for parents in failing districts. Due to falling enrollment,
Detroit looks to close 95 schools by 2009.
Parents watch their public schools lay off teachers, cut
arts and sports programs and sometimes even lower the
heat to deal with the effects of NCLB and underfunding.
Yet with roughly a third of Detroit residents living below
the poverty level, many parents don't have the option
to seek out a private school for their children. It was an
embarrassing moment when I realized I had lamented
over a district that consistently outperforms districts in
more dire straits.
Due to NCLB, public schools are being punished instead
of corrected, and families flee while nothing is being
fixed. This problem is as present in Yorktown as it is in
Detroit. Despite these flawed federal education policies,
we shouldn't give up on the public school system. Pub-
lic education is worth fighting for because it offers a less
expensive educational and social experience for children.
If the country sticks to this precarious federal course,
some privileged children may get ahead, but it will be the
public schools that are unfortunately left behind.
Rachel Wagner is an LSA junior and a
member of the Daily's editorial board.

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Editorial Board Members: Reggie Brown, Kevin Bunkley, Amanda Burns, Sam Butler,
Ben Caleca, Devika Daga, Milly Dick, James David Dickson, Jesse Forester, Gary Graca,
Jared Goldberg, Jessi Holler, Rafi Martina, Toby Mitchell, Rajiv Prabhakar, David Russell,
Katherine Seid, Elizabeth Stanley, John Stiglich, Neil Tambe, Rachel Wagner.

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