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March 15, 2007 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-03-15

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4A - Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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.
Banking on the future
The value of increasing taxes for a better quality of life
omerica bank announced last week that it will move its
headquarters to Dallas. It was lured there by booming com-
mercial opportunities and nonexistent corporate income
taxes. Comerica, founded in Detroit almost 160 years ago, is just the
latest in a string of corporations fleeing Michigan's stagnant econo-
my. With its name plastered on the Detroit Tigers's downtown sta-
dium and branches across Michigan, Comerica's decision to move
south was a fiscal - and a psychological - blow to the state.

It hurt a lot."
- Nine-year-old Angelica Santiago, who was finally rescued after having her hand stuck in the cash
slot of an ATM for more than three hours, as reported yesterday by CNN.



RIAA: The music mafia

Comerica's move recently garnered the
attention of the The Wall Street Journal's
editorial board, which attributed the reloca-
tion to Gov. Jennifer Granholm's proposed
tax increases. The editorial sarcastically
claims that Granholm "rewarded" support-
ers with $1 billion in additional taxes - as if
Michigan voters expected a prize and were
sorely disappointed.
Michigan's economic situation domi-
nated the 2006 gubernatorial election, and
Republican candidate Dick Devos's tax-
slashing mentality was soundly rebuked
by the voters. Although tax increases are
never popular, voters understand the dif-
ficult decisions Granholm is forced to make
and recognize that if they want the state to
spend on services, that money has to come
from somewhere.
In order to close the state's $860 million
budget deficit, Granholm has proposed a 2
percent tax on the broad category of servic-
es. She has floated increasing taxes on liquor
and cigarettes and will soon announce a
reformed business tax.Many critics yearn for
the supposed golden days of former Republi-
can Gov. John Engler. But they conveniently
overlook the fact that his tax cuts, in large
part, led to the severe structural budget cri-
sis our state is experiencing today.
Engler drastically reduced Michigan's
general fund and Granholm inherited the
problem, which multiplied exponentially
when the technological boom of the 1990s
slowed. Engler's cuts left Michigan unpre-
pared to absorb the sudden punch; it's fool-
ish to pretend that this is all Granholm's
fault simply because she is the one currently
in office. Republicans are now demanding
Granholm slash business taxes, but she is

responsible for running a government, not
just an economy.
The Republican controlled state Senate is
preparing to fight an increase in corporate
income tax, hoping to attract businesses
now. Granholm is taking the less politically
advantageous route of ensuring that basic
public services can be provided in 2007 and
investing in education, which is the only
path to a knowledge-based economy and
prosperity in the future.
Of course, the future of Michigan is
dependent on the economy, but in times of
recession, it is even more important that the
government be able to fund its welfare and
social security programs. Despite warn-
ings from Wall Street that Michigan's credit
rating will be downgraded, Granholm is
refusing to run the government like a profit-
seeking corporation, and for this she should
be commended.
Michigan residents must look at taxes in
terms of relative cost and benefit. There are
services, like education, that the state can
and must provide. According to the Detroit
Free Press, the proposed service tax increase
would cost a family of four with a income of
$57,300 about $65 per year, slightly more
than $5 dollars per month - hardly the
backbreaker Republicans are ranting about.
Comerica will not be the last company
to leave Michigan, and this will not be the
last criticism heard from out-of-state pun-
dits who rarely look back beyond a couple of
years even while commenting on problems
that span decades. For the good of the pub-
lic, Granholm is trying to strike a balance
between a good business environment and a
good living environment.
That's something we can all live with.

At the core of our perceptions of
the mafia lie greed, the pursuit
of profit and the bullying of the
weak and innocent. But if that is our
definition, then the insidiousness of
people like Al Capone or Lucky Luciano
pale in comparison to the ethics of our
corporate royalty. The mere fact that
certain corporations -
and organizations
that are morally no'
different than mem-I
bers of the mafial
consider themselves '.
legitimate clearly
demonstrates the
hypocrisy. J
The Recording JARED
Industry Associa- GOLDBERG
tion of America has ------
thus devolved from a fairly innocu-
ous organization to the latest incarna-
tion of the mob. The advent of the mp3
music file and the proliferation of high-
speed Internet brought the RIAA onto
the scene nearly 10 years ago. Napster,
the first peer-to-peer file-sharing ser-
vice, was also the first victim. Dozens
of similar programs were developed
- Kazaa and LimeWire among them.
Millions of people around the world
were drawn into file-sharing.
Using the courts, the RIAA has
tried to force file-sharing sites back
into Pandora's box. Much like the
mafia, the RIAA decided intimidation
was the best policy. Employing the
Digital Millennium Copyright Act of
1998 - itself a stricter manifestation
of the World Intellectual Property
Organization Copyright Treaty - the
RIAA has sued thousands and is plan-

ning to sue many more.
No one has been immune to the law-
suits. Children, the elderly, college stu-
dents and even dead people are among
the RIAA's victims. Larry Scantle-
bury - the defendant in Warner Bros.
v. Scantlebury and a former-Ypsilanti
resident - died before his case was
heard. Instead of dropping the lawsuit,
the RIAA asked for a 60-day stay so his
family could mourn before they were
In another case, Cassi Hunt, a stu-
dent at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology, contacted a representa-
tive of the RIAA, choosing as most of
the thousands facing lawsuits to settle
before going to court. Settlements have
reached into the thousands. There have
even been cases of RIAA representa-
tives suggesting that students drop out
of college in order to pay back debts.
But the true injustice lies with statu-
tory penalties that the RIAA is pursuing.
It seeks between $750 to $150,000 in
compensation per song. A typical song
on iTunes costs less than$1. Seekingthat
much in damages - a potential profit
thousands of times the value of the song
- is not morally justifiable. It is black-
mail, plain and simple. Federal Judge
David Trager from Brooklyn also sees a
problem. In UMG v. Lindor, Judge Trag-
er allowed the defendant to claim that
the penalties demandedbytheRIAA are
"unconstitutionally excessive."
In a lawsuit against Russian file-
sharing website allofmp3.com, the
RIAA asked for $1.65 trillion, an
amount greater than Russia's gross
domestic product. The company that
owns allofmp3.com claims it pays roy-

alties to the Russian collection agency
for copyrights and since allofmp3.com
is not located in America, the RIAA has
no grounds for alawsuit. Further, if the
RIAA was looking for suitable com-
pensation, it should sue the collection
agency, not allofmp3.com. All of this
clearly demonstrates the unhealthy
greed and the pathological obsession
with file sharing of the RIAA.
Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar's
2003 documentary, "The Corpora-
tion," psychoanalyzed corporations as
if they were people, noting that they
have the same legal rights as people. If
we were to characterize the RIAA as
a person, it would be a cross between
Robert Duvall's character in "The God-
father," Charles Dickens's Scrooge and
the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.
I would never argue for anyone to
break the law. However, I submit that
in this case, the laws violate a consum-
er's right to fair use and infringes upon
the very property rights that make
America free and democratic.
Jared Goldberg can be reached
at jaredgo@umich.edu.


Libby verdict lets more istration claims relating to Niger, the White
House resorted to a criminal smear campaign
senior offenders off the hook to prevent its knowingly falsified information
on Iraq from becoming further debunked. The
TO THE DAILY: willingness of Vice President Cheney to leak
In a column last month, Daily columnist both the name of a covert CIA operative and
John Stiglich assailed Special Prosecutor Pat- the contents of the 2002 National Intelligence
rick Fitzgerald and the American public in Estimate in response to Wilson's op-ed piece
his blathering critique of the American legal lends insight into the ruthless tactics of the
system (Law and Order, 02/14/07). He wrote, Bush White House.
"The Scooter Libby case held even greater The administration's insistence on silenc-
promise for liberal America when it was first ing its political opponents has created a lethal
being investigated by Special Prosecutor Pat- combination of executive abuses at home and
rick Fitzgerald ... Fitzgerald realized that (Joe) unilateralism abroad. Dispatching Scooter
Wilson was not protected by federal statute Libby to discredit Joe Wilson through unlaw-
as a CIA analyst, but he couldn't end a three- ful means is but one piece of a larger pattern
year investigation without indicting anyone, of power grabs, which includes presidential
so he indicted Libby over a he-said, she-said signing statements designed to ignore the will
squabble with 'Meet the Press' moderator of Congress, illegal detention of prisoners at
Tim Russert." Instead of an accurate critique Guantanamo Bay and unconstitutional tele-
of Fitzgerald's methods, the column was an phone surveillance.
irresponsible, sophomoric political punch that In each of these examples, the administra-
ignored the facts of the Libby case, and much tion'has been rebuked and forced to change
worse, the motivations for and consequences course by Congress, the American people
of his crimes. or courts. The White House was rebuked
Libby's perjurious testimony is representa- again when the jury delivered a guilty verdict
tive of the arrogance and deception that has against Libby. Contrary to Stiglich's claim, the
long characterized the Bush administration. We unfortunate aspect of the Libby trial is not that
have all witnessed the tragic cost of the manip- his name will be tarnished - it is that the trial
ulation of intelligence leading to the war in Iraq masks the criminality of more senior members
- the lives of more than 3,000 U.S. soldiers and of the Bush administration, namely Cheney
hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, $400 and Karl Rove.
billion and the loss of American moral leader- Hopefully history will judge Libby in a simi-
ship. But beyond the unmitigated disaster he larvein as Albert B. Fall, former President War-
helped create in Iraq, Libby's lies symbolize ren Harding's corrupt secretary of the interior
the zealotry of the Bush administration and its during the Teapot Dome Scandal of the 1920s
insatiable demand for executive power. - a symbol of a dishonest and disgraced White
When Joe Wilson, a diplomat praised for House.
standing up to Saddam Hussein in 1990 by
President George H.W. Bush, wrote his op-ed Robert Lupton
in The New York Times criticizing admin- LSA senior
b, LLQ7

Putin: The planet's corrupt savior


Over the course of last year, Rus-
sian President Vladimir Putin suf-
fered a storm of well-deserved
criticism in the Western media. The
unresolved murders of journalists
and ex-spies, human rights abuses in
Chechnya, rampant corruption and
continuing consolidation of authori-
tarian power in the Kremlin have
combined to make Putin's regime one
of the greatest failures of the "Third
Wave" of democratization. So much
promise; so little achieved.
But let's give some credit where
credit is due. Putin has probably
done more to help the cause of envi-
ronmentalists and those pushing for
alternative energy than anyone else
in the world. No, it was not through
bold stances on international agree-
ments or a strict adherence to domes-
tic environmental codes that Putin
achieved this laudable distinction.
He did it the way he usually does:
incompetence and highhandedness.
As is increasingly noticed in
Europe, Putin's Russia has been per-
fectly willing to use gas as a weapon.
Recent gas "slap downs" (as News-
week calls them), have targeted
Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania and
Georgia. At the same time, the Krem-
lin-backed oiland gas behemoth Gaz-
prom has been gobbling up pipelines
and refineries, forcing competitors
from the Russian oil fields. The story
of Yukos, the Russian oil firm that
was systematically dismantledby the
state while its owner was shipped off
to a Siberian prison, is just the most
prominent of these cases. All of this
has served to put an understandable
chill in Western investment in Rus-

sian oil projects.
In a December 2006 leader pro-
file entitled "Don't Mess With Rus-
sia," The Economist asserts: "In the
early part of the decade new produc-
tion from the former Soviet Union
accounted for most of the growth
in the world's supply of oil and gas."
Western companies moved into Sibe-
ria, and in mutually beneficial part-
nerships with locals, began to tap
the massive reserves the USSR had
never had the technical expertise
or market incentive to develop. "But
when Mr. Putin began his campaign
to take control of Russia's resources,"
the article continues, "that growth
stalled, just as China's demand for
energy was taking off. The present
high prices for oil and gas are the
These high prices have in turnhad
a large impact on public opinion in
a remarkable convergence: belatedly
following the European lead, Ameri-
cans began to see alternative energy
and energy conservation not as some
fringe environmental issue but as a
key component of both short- and
long-term economic health. And
just as oil prices opened minds to a
post-fossil fuel economy, so too they
weakened old prejudices on wider
environmental issues. Al Gore's "An
Inconvenient Truth" could not have
come out at a better time. The hot
summer, skyrocketing gas prices
and a dire long-term energy outlook
made Americans - even Republicans
- unusually open to his arguments
about global climate change.
Even President Bush, the number

one oil maninthe country, has begun
to come around. In his 2006 State
of the Union address, the president
rasped, with alook ofintense discom-
fort on his face, "America is addicted
to oil." As Jon Stewart observed at
the time, it was "actually harder for
him to say it, than for us to do it."
Much of this newfound sentiment
can be traced to Western pocket-
books, where Russia's energy policy
and the subsequent price increase
has had the biggest influence. The
continuingsuccess of hybrids likethe
Toyota Prius is based as much on eco-
nomic necessity as environmentalist
connections to Gaia. Many consum-
ers can expect to recoup their initial
investment within a relatively short
time period, especially if oil prices
rise again.
To be sure, Bush's Middle East pol-
icy also played a role in the recent oil
spike - including speculation over a
possible attack on Iran - but in terms
of long-term price increases, Russia's
mismanagement of its own reserves
is more significant. There are still
huge deposits of oil and gas beneath
the Russian tundra; most of them are
likely to remain there because West-
ern oil companies shy away from con-
tinued investment. So once more, let
us thank Putin: He has bravely sacri-
ficed Russia'sinternationalreputation
and long-term economic prospects,
all to wake up the West to the need to
move beyond fossil fuels - even if he
did not intend to.
Forrest Dunbar is an English
teacher living in Petropavlovsk,
Kazakhstan, near the Russian border.






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