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November 22, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-22

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4 - Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

74 ittcid'&gan4:atily
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890
413 E. Huron St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
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.
Taser use stuns country
UCLA police should not skirt responsibility
The repeated use of a Taser on University of California at
Los Angeles student Mostafa Tabatabainejad last week
in the Powell Library on the UCLA campus has created
an uproar over police brutality, not only in Los Angeles but across
the country. The incident is an all-too-perfect example of excessive
police force and demonstrates why even nonlethal weapons should
be used rarely and with extreme caution.

The future of
Lebanon was
- JOHN AKOURI, head of the
Lebanese American Chamber of
Commerce, on yesterday's assassina-
lion of Pierre Gemayel, an anti-Syrian
politician in Lebanon, as reported
yesterday on freeptcom.

- $


Credit card robots


The details are still unclear, and UCLA
is holding an independent investigation to
determine if the officers' actions were war-
ranted. Eyewitness testimony suggests that
even though Tabatabainejad failed to pro-
duce student identification to the library
staff, he was on his way out the door when
a police officer grabbed his arm.
The University of California Police
Department claims that officers only used a
Taser after Tabatabainejad "went limp and
continued to refuse to cooperate with offi-
cers or leave the building." It seems obvious
the Taser's effects on Tabatabainejad's body
hindered his ability to comply with police
orders. The incident was partially captured
on a cell-phone camera, and the video evi-
dence shows he was having difficulty stand-
ing as police demanded he exit the building.
It is also troubling that one of the police
officers who used the Taser on Tabataba-
inejad has a history of excessive violence
throughout his career - such as choking
a bystander with a nightstick in 1990 and
shooting a homeless man in 2003. UCLA
is right to seek an extensive investigation,
and if the investigation confirms stunning
Tabatabainejad several times with a Taser
was excessive and avoidable, the officers
responsible should be fired. The school can-
not seta precedent that unwarranted police
brutality against its students is excusable.
Tabatabainejad has since filed a lawsuit
against the campus police, alleging not only
police brutality but also racial profiling.
Being an Iranian-American, Tabatabaine-
jad believes his ethnicity played a major
part in his treatment that night. Officials
contend it is not uncommon for library

police to request identification after 11:00
p.m., as UCLA library facilities are for the
exclusive use of UCLA students, faculty
and staff during that time of night. Nev-
ertheless, Tabatabainejad alleges that he
was targeted for an ID check because of his
appearance. The independent investigation
needs to determine to what degree race was
a factor that night.
Even if the investigation is able to justify
shocking Tabatabainejad the first time, the
repeated assaults were clearly an exces-
sive use of force. Furthermore, the fact that
police didn't realize stunning Tabatabaine-
jad once would effectively render him inca-
pable of obeying their commands to stand
up suggests their training regarding Taser
use was severely inadequate.
In any situation, power can give way to
abuse. Equipping officers with Tasers lends
itself to this type of excessive brutality.
Here on campus, the University's Depart-
ment of Public Safety does not carry Tasers,
though the Ann Arbor Police Department
does. Given the AAPD has deemed Tasers
an essential police weapon, oversight and
extensive training of AAPD officers is cru-
cial to avoid a similar incident here.
Equipping police officers with Tasers is
not inherently bad - used properly, such
nonlethal weapons can prevent fatalities.
But the incident at UCLA demonstrates
that police officers armed with Tasers
must be both extensively trained and sub-
ject to oversight. Using a Taser on a stu-
dent who fails to show identification at
school library is simply excessive, as the
independent investigation of the incident
at UCLA will likely prove.

dizzying pantomime plays out
in a new TV commercial: To
a hip jazz tune, short-order
cooks twirl and flip their products
out on trays. Toasters depress their
own toast, shooting them up when
complete. Smoothie makers of all
colors churn while sales clerks toss
colorful sodas
across the deli to
customer after
customer. The
whole charade
has a mechanical
feel as an endless
line of customers
files in and out of
the restaurant. RAFI
Then, alas, one
poor schmuck MARTINA
ruins the whole
gig: Unlike all the savvy customers
around him paying with their Visa
cards (never mind that they file in
and out like mindless automata), this
average Joe has the audacity to pay
with cash. Imagine that! Cash? How
parochial. The catchphrase: "Money
shouldn't slow you down."
I simply couldn't believe my eyes
after witnessing such a bold procla-
mation by Visa. Stigmatizing cash?
I mean, sure, it's entirely consistent
with what the credit card industry
stands for - the romantic delusion of
endless consumerism, an emphasis on
credit as an everyday necessity, the
basic assumption that Visa and stores
that take it should be ubiquitous. But it
seemed a line had been crossed some-
where. How can you disparage the
very commodity credit was formed to
compensate for?
Moreover, in light of this country's
growing problem with debt - both
at the personal and national level
- where does Visa get off glorifying
the abjuration of cash in even the most

prosaic moments (i.e. paying for some-
thing as paltry as lunch) in favor of
instant and unnecessary debt? To me,
the whole ad campaign is like Smirnoff
putting out an ad admonishing water
in light of vodka's "fantastic thirst-
quenching effects." The catchphrase?
"Hydration shouldn't sober you up."
A study last year by Democratic
Sen. Charles Schumer's office found
that the average student at a four-year
state college in New York owed more
than $2,300 in credit card debt. I
can't imagine the figures differ much
for Michigan students. Nonetheless,
we're bombarded daily with offers
from credit pushers. In the mail, on
the phone, the credit card industry
waits impatiently for our next moment
of seeming buyer necessity.
Credit card companies undoubt-
edly argue that credit comes with
responsibility, that accepting a line
of credit obviously involves a mature
decision on the part of the credit card
holder - and with it the commitment
to manage one's funds (and inevitable
debts) responsibly.
But credit cards don't fit the profile
of caveat emptor essentially because
you're not a buyer; credit cards aren't
something you buy, they're some-
thing you buy with. The sense of the
credit card as something other than
an object but as something with
which we pursue objects remains an
important distinction. Indeed, if we
superimpose any analogy to credit
card addiction, the card doesn't rep-
resent any drug; the real drug figures
as materialism and consumerism in
general. Rather, credit cards stand to
facilitate an addiction, to extend our
material desires beyond the param-
eters of our actual buying power.
To be sure, much like the abstract
credit the company affords its cus-
tomers, the card itself becomes some-

what intangible in that, unlike cash,
you aren't ceding possession of the
card when you use it to purchase
something. The task of buying some-
thing becomes so easy that it feels like
theft. While that plastic rectangle
certainly hasn't lost its palpable qual-
ity (I haven't yet seen someone wave
their hands magically in front of a
cashier and walk off with their goods
Since when did cash
become worthy of
our scorn?
without being assailed by a clerk), the
ease with which we use it - the trivi-
ality, or at leastthe nonchalance of the
transaction - diminishes the respect
we have for credit. It's this seeming
disrespect for credit, something that
we all possess to a degree, that has-
tens our victimization by it.
And that's just what the commercial
encourages us to do - to take credit so
cavalierly that we march like robots
withitinhand. Sureitcanbe awkward
at times to stand in front of a cashier
while you count your bills and watch
as the cashier recounts them and gives
back your change. Sure, the process
can take a little time. And yes, a credit
card makes the process a whole hell of
a lot faster and perhaps less awkward.
But consider the cost of that conve-
nience. It's beyond possible double-
digit interest rates. It's consumerism
run amok, plumped up by easy plastic,
devoid of deliberation and, ultimately,
financial responsibility.
Rafi Martina can be reached
at rmartina@umich.edu.


Change the laws
Overcrowding is a symptom of misguided drug policies
perhaps the third time will be the charm for those
seeking an expansion to the Washtenaw County Jail.
Last Wednesday, the county Board of Commissioners
approved a $21.6-million bond issue to add beds to the county jail
and improve the district court. The move comes after two other
proposals for expanding the jail failed in the last 19 months.

Tongue tied on the Middle East

The current proposal is certainly better
than some of the alternatives - particularly
a $314-million jail and courts millage put
before voters in the county's first attempt to
expand its jail, an idea that earned the enmi-
ty of an ad-hoc activist group, the No Giant
Jail Committee.
Nonetheless, the county's insistence
on expanding its jail reflects a dangerous
mentality toward criminal justice that has
led our nation to have some of the highest
incarceration rates in the world. The coun-
ty's most recent proposal deserves the fate
of its last two. Reforming a flawed legal
system that inevitably leads to prison over-
crowding is a worthier goal than building
ever-bigger lockups.
Should the most recent bond issue go
forward, the county will add 96 beds to the
existing Washtenaw County Jail, which is
chronically overcrowded. Residents have
about five weeks to object to the bond issue
- as they did last year, when 17,000 signed a
petition seeking to force a vote on a $30 mil-
lion bond issue the board had approved, put-
ting an end to that idea.
Overcrowding is not a problem unique to
the Washtenaw County Jail. Nationwide,
there has been a roughly four-fold increase
in the number of people being incarcerated
since 1980, necessitating the construction
of new prisons and jails across the country.
The driving force behind this increase is
not some long-term crime wave, but rather
the fundamentally misguided, decades-long
war on drugs.
The American obsession with cracking
down on drug use has led us to waste count-

less millions of dollars spent locking up non-
violent drug users. Meanwhile, the illegal
yet lucrative drug trade is the core cause
of many violent crimes. Mandatory mini-
mum sentencing laws have stripped judges
of the discretion to distinguish between the
truly dangerous and the merely misguided
- while adding those with unnecessarily
long sentences to the ever-growing list of
the incarcerated.
The nation seems not to remember its
failed experiment with Prohibition, a pol-
icy that was singularly ineffective at keep-
ing those determined to drink from finding
alcohol but that did wonders for organized
crime. With Republicans always eager to cut
taxes and Democrats afraid of being labeled
as tax-and-spend liberals, there's no politi-
cal will to raise the funds needed to operate
the corrections bureaucracy, meaning that
schools and social programs are sacrificed
to pay for our penal policy. That's a point
particularly salient in Michigan, where
despite the state's grave fiscal woes, the
corrections budget has continued to grow
- though higher education has faced cuts in
recent years.
Expanding prisons and jails whenever
they hit their capacities is a pragmatic
approach, and it's probably better than forc-
ing prisoners to sleep in a gym or converted
office for lack of a proper bed. However, the
nation - and this state, with its troubled
economy - cannot afford to build new lock-
ups indefinitely. Decriminalizing drugs,
especially those such as marijuana that pose
little risk to users, would be a far wiser poli-
cy than covering the planet with prisons.

n my Religion and Politics class
last week, we were blessed with
a gift from the academic gods: a
guest speaker. Time to whip out the
Michigan Daily's Sudoku and doodle
the class away. However, our guest
speaker, Prof. Mark Tessler, actually
stirred our sleepy I0 a.m. lecture. As a
leading researcher in his department,
Tessler has conducted extensive stud-
ies in Arab and Islamic countries like
Egypt, Iran, Jordan and Palestine on
the correlation between religiosity
and attitudes toward democracy.
But wait a
moment. Was
Palestine just
included in that
Brace yourself,
political correct-
ness gurus - the
answer is yes.
Not surpris- WHITNEY
ingly, the lan-
guage Tessler DIBO
used offended a
few of my fellow classmates. There
was an uncomfortable wave of chair-
shifting when Tessler mentioned
"Palestine" alongside other, estab-
lished countries. Tessler even dared
to give the region its own information
column during his Powerpoint pre-
sentation and its very own bar graph,
seeming yet again to refer to it as a
The truth is, the presentation had
nothing to with the Arab-Israeli con-
flict or even Arab sentiment toward
Israel, and Tessler made it clear he
didn't want to touch that issue.
Yet congregating in the hallway
after class, I was given a crash course
in one version of Middle East Politi-
cal Correctness 101: Palestine isn't a
country; it's a territory. And it should
not be referred to as "Israeli-occu-
pied," but simply as "Palestinian-

governed." Apparently Tessler didn't
brush up on his Arab-Israeli etiquette
before entering our class.
Let's get one thing straight. I'm
Jewish and pro-Israel, and my back
goes up at any hint of anti-Semitism.
But I was still disturbed to see a Uni-
versity professor walk on eggshells
around our class, tiptoeing in vain
when trying to choose the right ver-
nacular with which to speak about
that certain region west of Jerusalem.
Tessler was doomed from the start.
No matter which phrase he chose, he
was bound to offend somebody.
The reality is, if we have any chance
of openly speaking about the Middle
East, we must drop this hypersensi-
tivity. The Palestinian territories, Pal-
estine, the West Bank - whatever you
choose to call it - is a difficult topic,
but crankingup the PC will only make
dialogue impossible.
What I've seen happening on cam-
pus is a complete avoidance of the
issue, except by people who feel pas-
sionately one way or the other. Israel
advocates have no problem deciding
what words to choose, nor do pro-Pal-
estinian activists. It's the people who
have no political agenda and who just
want to understand the conflict (or
present a few statistics) who remain
tongue-tied. Most. won't even open
their mouths for fear of offending a
lurking Middle East PC expert in the
Given my position on Israel, I speak
about the Arab-Israeli conflict using
the vernacular most Jewish people
deem correct. That is my choice.
However, if someone else uses a dif-
ferent idiom, whether arbitrarily or
out of personal belief, that is their
choice. Unless the language is bla-
tantly offensive, I try to avoid sound-
ing the anti-Semitism alarms. There
is a difference between anti-Semitic
rhetoric and language that is simply

hard on Jewish ears.
There is an off-Broadway play cur-
rently running in New York City that
is also hard on Jewish ears titled "My
Name is Rachel Corrie." The play is
crafted from the diary of a 23-year-
old American woman who was killed
by an Israeli bulldozer in 2003. Unde-
niably, the show looks pretty bad for
Israel - just as a show written about
Marla Bennett, a 24-year-old Ameri-
can student killed by suicide bomber
at Hebrew University, would look
pretty bad for the Palestinians.
The show was scheduled to open
in March of last year, but six weeks
before opening night, it was post-
poned indefinitely by the New York
Theatre Workshop. The theater cited
"the current political climate" as the
reason for cancellation. After months
of controversy, "My Name is Rachel
Corrie" finally opened in New York
last month. You know it's a bad sign
when even the theatre world - the
stage for artistic freedom where
controversy usually finds a spotlight
- buckles under the pressure of polit-
ical correctness.
If I had the money to see some
shows in New York right now, I prob-
ably wouldn't buy tickets for "My
Name is Rachel Corrie." It just doesn't
sound like a show my New York Jew-
ish grandparents and I would enjoy.
But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be
produced, or that pro-Israel activ-
ists shouldn't protest outside. Let the
Middle East be aired on the stage and
in the street - at any rate, we certain-
ly could use a break from the stuffy
political correctness of the classroom.
The bottom line is that if we continue
putting a gag over this issue, it will
only continue to stew in silence and
Whitney Dibo can be reached
at wdibo@umich.edu.
Student Affairs Research, as of fall
2005, 70.5 percent of students at the
University came from families whose
income was above $75,000 per year
- and 20.7 percent from families with
an income above $200,000. As many
people have pointed out in past letters
to the editor, diversity goes deeper
than skin color.
Ryan Mitchell
LSA senior

- E-"

a new report, The Education Trust
needstofoCuson - a group whose goal is to close the
b ac l achievement gap - gives the Univer-
eing ccessle to sity an "F" for access to low-income
students. Ironically, the same report
ow-income students gave the University a "B" in access
to minority students. According to
TO THE DAILY: these grades, I'd say the University
Something I've heard about should focus more on helping low-
numerous times during my career income students than fighting to
at the University is the importance overturn Proposal 2.
of closing the achievement gap. In According to statistics compiled by

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