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November 27, 2006 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-27

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4A - Monday, November 27, 2006

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


L74C iC igan B3al
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.
Bring back LRV
Instant runoff voting would improve city politics
While some voters may have stayed home from the
polls earlier this month due to the blustery weather,
lackluster candidates stopped a lot more citizens
from voting. In the 2004 presidential elections and this year's
gubernatorial elections, many felt indifferent toward or even dis-
gusted by both major party candidates.

We don't want really a
fight with the
president. What we
want to do is to prove we
can govern for the next
two years."
- Rep. CHARLES RANGEL (D-N.Y.), talking
about the plans of Houne Democrats for
the upcoming Congress, an reported
yesterday by Reuters.

Wet Hot American Christmas

Reforming the electoral process on
a national and state level may be
long process - but on a local level,
Ann Arbor residents can take action now to
fix their voting system. Instant runoff vot-
ing can provide residents with the chance
to vote for third party candidates without
fear of throwing away their vote, making
local elections more competitive and the
outcome more democratic.
IRV allows voters to rank their preferred
candidates in single-winner races. Voters'
first-choice candidates are tallied first. In
the event no candidate has a majority, the
last-place candidate is dropped, and his
votes are redistributed to his voters' second
choice. The process is repeated until one
candidate holds the majority. This method
is currently used in Australia and Fiji, as
well as in San Francisco's local races.
Here in Ann Arbor, voters approved
IRV for local races in 1974. Then, IRV was
a solution to problems caused by a grow-
ing third party, the Human Rights Party,
whose success took away Democratic votes
and led to the election of Republican Mayor
James Stephenson in 1971 with 47 percent
of the vote. With IRV in place, Stephen-
son lost his 1975 re-election campaign to
his Democratic challenger. IRV did cause
some problems in its inaugural run, namely
delays in tallying votes due to paper ballots
and confusion among pollworkers - hardly
insurmountable difficulties. But a Republi-
can-led petition drive and unusually high
Republican turnout in the 1976 election led
to the repeal of IRV.
Today it is not the strength of a third
party, but the lack of even a second party
that makes IRV's return necessary. All ten
of Ann Arbor's City Council members are
Democrats, though two originally ran as

Republicans before realizing that elector-
al success here is much easier with a "D"
next to your name on the ballot. Single-
party dominance has meant that Council
members are selected in August prima-
ries. In this month's general election, only
one of the five ward races was contested
at all, by a Green Party candidate who
earned 16 percent of the vote in Ward 3.
IRV would make races more competitive
by allowing voters to choose third-party
candidates without fear of throwing away
their votes.
The Green Party could be strong in Ann
Arbor, but without experienced candidates,
it will remain on the outskirts of main-
stream local politics. Greens and members
of other alternative parties could gainexpe-
rience and legitimacy if the voting system
allowed citizens to support them without
worrying their vote wouldn't count.
Support for IRV is growing, with a local
group, the Ann Arbor Fair Vote Coalition,
advancing the issue. Washtenaw County
Clerk Larry Kestenbaum supports IRV,
and Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said he
would back IRV if he was convinced resi-
dents understood it and wanted it.
The voting system certainlyisn't the only
problem plaguing our democracy - but it is
one thing that can be easily addressed at the
local level. IRV can mean more competitive
elections and increased civic participation
in Ann Arbor. Local groups must continue
their efforts to spark interest among resi-
dents and to educate them in order to avoid
the confusion that marred IRV's 1975 run.
Student groups, too, have the opportunity
to mobilize campus behind. By joining up
with other IRV supporters, students can
contribute to a larger movement to make
our local elections more democratic.

The Thanksgiving turkey had bare-
ly been picked clean off the serv-
ing tray when my aunt turned to
my brother and I and asked us the inevi-
table question: "So what do you boys want
for Christmas?"
That was it. Thanksgiving was over,
mugged of its reverence and cast aside
for the prima donna of all holidays -
Christmas. _
No matter
what religion
one subscribes
to, the rampant
of the holiday
season is ines-
capable. It is the
zenith of our
American capi- SAM
talist systemtheB
Super Bowl for BUTLER
retailers across
the country. After all, when you are swip-
ing your credit card for Jesus, you don't
shy away from making purchases.
My brother, a socially savvy high
school student, expressed his need to
shop at Urban Outfitters for his girlfriend.
Ah, Urban - a favorite for high school
and college students alike. Selling pseu-
do-ironic T-shirts, velvety Jesus statu-
ettes and Chubby Checker coffee table
books, Urban Outfitters is an amazing
place where students can not only buy the
perfect dorm room adornment but also
purchase a defining sense of character.
A mediocre person who buys that oh-so-
clever screen-printed T-shirt suddenly
becomes a part of a youth culture, while
simultaneously showing off his sense of
humor and strong personality. "My name
is Tom, but it says 'Earl' on my blue-collar
shirt - how crazy is that?"
By buying useless pieces of kitsch and
subversive articles of clothing, the sen-
timent is that one is undermining mass
consumerism. Normal people don't spend
good money on Cat Lady action figures.

I don't mean to only single out patrons
of Urban Outfitters, though. These obser-
vations apply to all people who take their
material possessions as signifiers of their
superiority - but especially to the kids
who gag at brands like Nike and Adidas
but froth at the mouth over a pair of high-
top sneakers. "Because I bought my retro
suit jacket and hooded sweatshirt at a
vintage store, I am obviously more intel-
ligent, politically aware and just generally
cooler than you."
These mass-produced knick-knacks
are sold to us so we can display our indi-
viduality, an individuality that becomes
only more sought after as global con-
sumerism homogenizes our culture. But
marketers, of course, have figured out
how to package individuality. Rebellion
against mainstream commercialism
manifests itself as merely a superficial
market preference. More ironic than
any of the T-shirts sold in stores is the
fact that so many "hip" people believe
that purchasing these types of goods is
an actual form of protest against com-
mercial society. Instead of hipsters
avoiding and subverting capitalism, the
economic system has evolved to encom-
pass its would-be dissenters.
Thisthought echoesthe claims Thom-
as Frank makes in his book, "The Con-
quest of Cool." Although he focuses on
the 1960s, his points are only truer today.
Business culture subsumes the counter-
culture, and now any form of opposition
is co-opted.
Through advertising, capitalism has
appropriated all of our forms of dissent.
Marketers placate us using the rhetoric
of feminists, environmentalists and iber-
cool hipsters. Subverting the capitalist
system becomes just another ploy used
to sell you a product. Think of any com-
mercial that advocates breaking away,
jumping off the beaten path or escaping
the mundane. There is no way for mem-
bers of the counterculture to express their
disdain for the status quo that hasn't been

branded and sold in stories.
Or at least this is what I thought until I
learned ofa new way to rebel against the
powers that be: sex.
Veteran peace activists Donna Shee-
han and Paul Reffell have partnered with
scientists at Princeton University in call-
ing for people all over the world to have an
orgasm sometime, somewhereonDec.22.
Backed by pseudoscientific theories, they
hope that the mass ecstasy will create an
energy and global consciousness to help
bring about world peace.
When I first heard about the Global
Orgasm for Peace, I thoughtwe had finally
discovered an incorruptible form of mass
protest. Its impactmaybequestionable,but
I was pleased to see an organized protest
void of cheesy merchandise or requests for
donations and which used a method that
seemedto lack ego.
Even orgasms have
been corrupted by
ThenI went to their website and found
a plug for Sheehan and Reffell's new book
onromance and sexualfreedom. Thebook
was given as background information and
as certification that these people have the
authority to launch a major worldwide
protest. How sad that financial success"
validates peace activists these days.
But I should probably get off my high
and sanctimonious horse. Who am I to
judge, when last year my aunt gave me
an Abercrombie & Fitch sweater that
I still hesitate to wear because of my
vain hipster-esqe reservations - and all
these people want for Christmas is peace
on earth?
Sam Butler can be reached
at butlers@umich.edu

A flawed democracy

Since late June, Israelhas killed 400 Palestin-
ians in Gaza. In the morning hours of November
8, 2006, in the village of Beit Hanoun, Israeli
tanks repeatedly fired shells on a house, killing
18 members of the same extended family. Other
attacks earlier in the month were launched
against peaceful protesters in Gaza. In break-
ing the months-long cease-fire that Hamas had
agreed to this summer, this invasion collec-
tively punished innocent people in the name of
Israeli security.
Promoters of Zionism tout its democracy,
which offers legal protection to all. There
exists, however, a gap between theory and
practice that has bred racial apartheid within
Israeli society and between Israel and its occu-
pied populations in Palestine. In a state that
asserts the dominance of one religious persua-
sion, democracy cannot really flourish. By fail-
ing to protect a plurality of ethnic and religious
groups, the Israeli government exposes non-
Jewish populations to persecution in a variety
of ways. Israeli political leaders like Avigdor
Lieberman, who was recently promoted deputy
prime minister, explicitly support the ethnic
cleansing of Arab populations as a way of pre-
serving the Jewish majority in Israel.
Immigration law under the Israeli democra-
cy is another site of exclusion. Israel's "Law of
Return" offers citizenship to anyone of the Jew-
ish faith from anywhere in the world, yet Pales-
tinian refugees are denied the right to return to
their homes and become citizens. These refu-
gees are numbered in the millions and were
displaced from their homes at various points
during the last 60 years. In 1948, Israeli inde-
pendence came in conjunction with the forced
removal of 750,000 Palestinians from their
land. Through the years, Israel has conquered
and occupied more Palestinian land by war, a
violation of the United Nations Charter. During
these wars, millions more were displaced from
their homes in Israel/Palestine. Despite UN
Resolution 194, Israel refuses to grant refugees
the right to return home because this would
threaten the demographic majority in Israel.
In its obsession with maintaining this major-
ity, Israeli policy has led to the removal and
marginalization of another people and culture,
instead of upholding the values of inclusion and

equality that democracies promise to foster.
Arabs living in Israel as citizens compose
the lowest socioeconomic classes. They cannot
purchase land owned by the Jewish National
Fund, an organization that administers a large
proportion of Israel's land and only sells real
estate to its Jewish citizens. In occupied Pales-
tine, Israeli military rule does not even pretend
to uphold democratic values. Nor does it adhere
to the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars
the settlement of Israelis on land that is under
Israeli military occupation. Not only did Israel
transplant 12,000 new settlers into the West
Bank after its formal withdrawal from Gaza
in 2005, but it also maintained a military siege
on the strip, controlling the flow of people and
goods in and out and violating Palestinian air-
space and ports. In the name of security, Israel
has laid waste to the Palestinian economy and
turned Gaza into an open-air prison. To enforce
an illegalsettlementprojectinthe territories, the
Israeli military implements policies that degrade
their democratic ideal further, as witnessed by
the tragedy in Beit Hanoun weeks ago.
Israelis and Palestinians are using peaceful
resistance against Israeli policy. Hundreds of
Palestinians assembled at a Gazan home, forc-
ing the Israeli militaryto call off its planned air
attack. In defiance of their government's occu-
pation, Israeli activists seized control of tanks
at a Gaza border crossing. This cross-national
struggle desires a peace that only justice can
nourish. The end of Israeli occupation and an
overhaul of Israel's exclusionary state are pre-
requisites to a just solution. The UN General
Assembly recently condemned the attacks in
Gaza, but the United States vetoed a similar res-
olution in the Security Council, thus exerting
American power to excuse its ally's atrocities.
But massive American military aid also facili-
tates Israeli crimes. Our university is complicit
too through its investments in arms companies
that provide Israel its arsenal. Divesting from
these companies would allow our campus to
invest in just outcomes rooted in equality and
lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians.
Shimaa Abdelfadeel is an LSA
senior and a co-chair of Students
Allied for Freedom and Equality.

ICers outplayed, outclassed over
Thanksgiving break
I attended Saturday night's Michigan-Minnesota hock-
ey game with a good friend who is a University alumnus.
I understand that the result of the game was quite disap-
pointing to the Wolverine hockey team. However, even
more disappointing to the 10,000 fans in attendance and
to the Minnesota players and coaches was the poor sports-
manship displayed by the Michigan players and coaches.
After the game, as the players lined up for the custom-
ary handshake, the coaches shook hands. The Minnesota
coaches, as is customary, stayed on the ice to shake hands
with the Michigan players, but the Michigan coaches left
the ice, refusing to shake hands with the Minnesota play-
ers - six of whom played for the Ann Arbor-based U.S.
National Development Team.
To add insult to injury, only one Michigan player shook
hands with the Minnesota coaches. After the Michigan
players and coaches had deserted the ice, the Minnesota-
Michigan traveling trophy was presented to the victorious
Golden Gophers. The previous night, Michigan State Uni-
versity coaches and players had the class to shake hands
with the Minnesota coaches and players after a loss and
stayed on the ice for the presentation of the Minnesota-
Michigan State traveling trophy to the Gophers.
What a lost weekend for the Wolverines; they were out-
played by the Gophers and outclassed by the Spartans.
David O'Hara
Coleman's focus on diversity is
grounded in fallacy
Last Tuesday, I received a second e-mail from Univer-
sity President Mary Sue Coleman deriding the passage
of Proposal 2. I am troubled that President Coleman still
considers that diversity, "particularly with respect to race,
ethnicity, gender and national origin," is one of the foun-
dations of a great university. Universities aren't created to
solve "vexing societal issues." They are created to educate
people who will then solve the societal issues of the day. I
believe that the continued focus on diversity as a means of
achieving a better university is grounded in fallacy.
I work for the University Hospital, and the other day,
two other white males and I were together in a room. I

am a Mormon, one other person was Jewish and the other
was pretty much atheist. I have a family and children; the
others do not. There was more diversity in that gathering
due to our backgrounds and religious beliefs than there
could ever be by simply focusing on race. Just because we
are all white males doesn't make us less diverse than the
three young female nurses of different racial backgrounds
I saw gathered in the break room talking about growing
up in the same neighborhood. The sad thing is that I only
noticed their race because it was the day after the election
and they were discussing their political views, which hap-
pened to be pretty much the same.
The Civil Rights Movement was important because
it took racism from the legal and accepted institution of
"separate but equal" and instead recognized equality
before the law. To say that racist people don't exist today
is naive, but to insist that race should be the focus of Uni-
versity policy is misguided.
I find it ironic that our president insists on spreading her
views of diversity so strongly that she uses her influence to
try to negate the overwhelming choice of voters. Perhaps she
should take a page from Hillsdale College, whichbelieves so
firmly in promoting equality that it turns downfederalfunds
that would require it to ask about the race of its students.
Coleman should realize that her job is to help the University
teach and educate, not to promote an ideological agenda.
Adam Meziani
University hospital employee
Letters Policy
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Do you spontaneously write 700-word essays on ... life?
You should apply for an opinion column.
E-mail galad@umich.edu.
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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