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January 25, 2008 - Image 4

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4 - Friday, January 25, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@umich.edu

I am a noise-polluting, diesel-soaking,
Gulfstream-flying rock star."
- U2 lead singer Bono, confessing to former vice president and environmental activist Al Gore that his
celebrity lifestyle is not conducive to environmentalism, as reported yesterday by msnbc.com.

4

KARL STAMPFL
EDITOR IN CHIEF

IMRAN SYED
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR

JEFFREY BLOOMER
MANAGING EDITOR

WYMAN KHUU

Unsigned editorials reflectthe official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
The Daily's public editor, Paul H. Johnson, acts as the readers' representative and takes a criticallook at
coverage and content in every section of the paper. Readers are encouraged to contact the public editor
with questions and comments. He canbe reached at publiceditor@umich.edu.
What war?
Students should be informed, active about war in Iraq
Y ou may have forgotten, but - surprise - America is still
fighting a senseless war. While the war in Iraq hasn't quite
grabbed the headlines like the tragic death of heartthrob
actor Heath Ledger, the presidential horse race or the unexpected
pregnancy of Jamie Lynn Spears, it is still a hazardous situation
with dire consequences for our generation. Unless students take the
time to understand the conflict in Iraq and pressure our leaders into
action, it will continue to be a forgotten war that years later our gen-
eration will realize the financial and political costs of.

ir

Sup Chayo.
tha's good?

Sup Pepper. Nothing
much just chiller.

You know I just worted to tell
you that youre like tall for on
Asian. Did you know that?
I

You know, according to the latest
census, the average American male
is 59. I think that at 6T, rm
tall for an American and not just
an Asian . Aight?

ra

The dark horse with scary ideas

At the most basic level, students and
Americans are unaware of what is happen-
ing in Iraq because they know little about
Iraq. According to a survey by National Geo-
graphic in 2006, "Despite nearly constant
news coverage since the war [in Iraq] began
in 2003, 63 percent of Americans aged 18 to
24 failed to correctly locate the country on a
map of the Middle East." It's tough to imag-
ine how anyone could form a meaningful
opinion about, or influence the policy on, a
war half-a-world away if it's not even known
where the country is. If people knew even
basic knowledge about Iraq's geography or
Iraq's three primarygroups, the Sunnis, Shi-
ites and Kurds, it would go a long way toward
their understanding what's going on.
Unfortunately, since debate about wheth-
er President Bush's "surge" strategy last
year has quieted, the media has kept the
war in Iraq out of the limelight. There's still
a lot going on. In the last year, many com-
mend Bush's troop surge for improvingfthe
security situation in Iraq, but note that the
social situation has not improved much. As
of November 2007, an estimated 33 percent
of Iraqis are still unemployed and many
don't have electricity, water or basic neces-
sities. Although America is not debating it
anymore, these changing circumstances
still reflect different views on whether we
should be fighting this war.
The fact that college-aged kids are fight-

ing and dying thousands of miles away
should be sufficient motivation for Univer-
sity students to protest the war. Sadly, few
students care. However, according to the
Associated Press, 3,931 American soldiers
have died since the war began in 2004. The
U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee
reported last November that the cost of the
conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq during the
period from 2002 to 2008 would top $1.6
trillion. That is enough money to send an
estimated 8.5 million out-of-state students
to a four-year undergraduate program at
the University or 20 million in-state stu-
dents, room and board included.
what many students don't realize is that
we will ultimately pay the war's expenses
and the political blowback will be our prob-
lem. Even if you subscribe to the idea that
the surge is working, there are other options
like an international effort that could bring
American troops back, rebuild Iraq and
substantially reduce the cost of the war.
This won't happen with a president who
has alienated the international community
or with citizens whodon't demand that the
U.S. occupation of Iraq end.
The war in Iraq poses too many threats
and has too many consequences for the
American people and the University's
students to go on uneducated. Become
informed. Become active. Tell other people
about it.

As a news editor last semester
I was charged with an inter-
esting task: Cover dark horse
Republican presidential candidatelRon
Paul's speech on the
Diag. I had read the
reports of a massive
student following
and heard tales of
the maverick con-
gressman's ability
to inspire the apa-
thetic masses. I was -
pretty excited. DAVID
The scene on the
Diag unfolded like MEKELBURG
the Phish concert
when I was young-
er. The unmistakable scent of mari-
juana wafted through the air. Hippies
strolled around with marijuana
legalization petitions. Loudspeakers
blared The Beatles' "Revolution" and
a generic reggae jam that contained
the chorus "Ron Paul is here/Help-
ing people everywhere." I've covered
more than a few political rallies in my
day and the crowds have never been
more than 15 percent students. But
here, I guessed the massive crowd
that covered the Diag was comprised
of almost 80 percent students.
When Paul finally came out to the
podium, the crowd erupted as if Mich-
igan had just scored a touchdown
against Ohio State. This was going
to be insane, I thought. Then Paul
launched into his speech. And, well,
it was OK. As his policy-heavy speech
droned on, and I actually started lis-
tening to what he was saying, some-
thing dawned on me: Ron Paul scares
the bejesus out of me.
The college vote usually goes to
the liberals who promise change
and hope like Democratic candidate
Barack Obama. Paul certainly prom-
ises change, but ina way, he's the anti-
hope. His plans to remove the federal
government from every aspect of life
aren't a push forward - they're an

acceptance of defeat. He's saying that
everything we've done in the last 100
years is wrong, and the entire system
needs to be dismantled.
But crazy people exist in politics all
the time. Aaron Burr killed a guy -
who is now on our $10 bill - when he
was vice president. He then went on to
try and set up an independent fiefdom
in Mexico. What scares me about Paul
is his popularity and what that might
say about our country, especially its
students. I know he's not going to win
the primary, but Paul garnered 14 per-
cent of the vote in Nevada. And I can't
figure out why the hell this is happen-
ing. SoI asked someone.
I talked to LSA senior Rob John-
son, chair of the University's chapter
of Students for Ron Paul, about what
makes Paul so appealing. Before John-
son got into the policy specifics of his
support, he said something that I had
heard from virtually every Paul fan at
the rally: Paul is not a liar.
"When I looked at Ron Paul, what
jumped out to me was how consistent
and honest he was," Johnson said.
"He's truly not politics as usual."
If you can say anything about Paul,
he's certainly consistent. I can't under-
stand how this becomes a reason for
supporting a candidate. Just because
he is consistent and honest doesn't
mean what he's saying isn't absolutely
insane.
Look, I'm just as disillusioned . as
the next college student. But that
doesn't mean I'm going to give up.
Johnson and several other supporters
have told me that Paul gives voice to
the ignored in American politics, but
as students we've only been ignored
for a maximum of one election. On top
of that, I can't quite figure out what's
being ignored. Paul's basic ideology is
having the federal government ignore
people and leave them alone. How is
that any less alienating than the cur-
rent system?
The thing that most concerns me

about Paul is his effort to get rid of the
income tax. I heard a lot of complaints
about taxes from supporters, but as
students, what taxes do you really
pay? I asked Johnson about this and he
talked a little about tax code and incen-
tives to balance the budget, but then
mentioned something that caught my
attention: taxes are redistribution.
I'm sorry, but every tax dollar you
pay does not go to some fictional
homeless person spending your hard-
earned tax dollars on booze. They go
to things like the roads, fire depart-
ments and schools. I'm sure you've
benefited from these. So shut up. Pay
your taxes. Somewhere along the line,
"live and let live" turned into "live and
Honest and
consistent, Ron
Paul is still crazy
screw everyone else." Civic responsi-
bility apparently doesn't fit into Paul's
idea of America.
We're college students. We like
to pretend we are the most compas-
sionate and idealistic people in this
country. Sadly, we probably are. But
Paul is the easy way out. Paul offers an
apology and tells you the government
is at fault, not you. Paul promises that
you're finally going to be left alone.
Sorry for the cliche, but I love
my fellow Americans and even the
government - flaws, mistrust and
disagreements included. And as frus-
trated as I get sometimes, a world
with everyone leaving me alone, well,
seems kind of lonely.
David Mekelburg is an outgoing
Daily associate news editor. He can
be reached at dmek@umich.edu.

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Emad Ansari, Anindya Bhadra, Kevin Bunkley, Ben Caleca, Milly Dick, Mike Eber,
Gary Graca, Emmarie Huetteman, Theresa Kennelly, Emily Michels, Arikia Millikan,
Kate Peabody, Kate Truesdell, Robert Soave, Neil Tambe, Matt Trecha,
Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder, Rachel Wagner, Patrick Zabawa.
SAYAN BHATTACHARYYA
Coca-Cola: Breaking the code

40

Making it count

Kelly Fraser's article "Coke cleared in India
investigation" (01/15/2008) bore a misleading,
headline. When one reads the actual article,
one notices that it says, "The Energy and
Resources Institute, an independent environ-
mental research organization based in New
Delhi, found that two of (Coca Cola's) six
plants examined in the report were contribut-
ing to water shortages in the areas surround-
ing the facilities." Such a damning indictment
can hardly be said to "clear" Coke.
In fact, the University's Vendor Code of
Conduct clearly states at the beginning that
vendors selling products at the University
should promote a "sustainable environment
for workers and the general public" in their
activities. In its report, TERI recommended
that Coke's plant in Kala Dera either be relo-
cated, shut down, store water to use or trans-
fer in water from a distant aquifer, noting that
the last two options were probably not actu-
ally feasible. The plant is not environmentally
sustainable because it is leading to depletion
of water in the region and depriving the local
people of much-needed water.
This is a strong negative judgment on
Coke's environmental "stewardship," a word
that Coke likes to use in its corporate litera-
ture. If the situation is so bad at Coke's Kala
Dera plant that relocation or shut down are
the feasible, sustainable solutions to prevent
the depletion of groundwater, how come
Coke's own environmental impact studies
have not found this? Doesn't this mean that
Coke has shown a callous disregard for the
deadly impact its activities on the lives of
Indians who live in the area and depend on
the groundwater for their needs? I would
think that Coke is in clear violation of the
University's Vendor Code of Conduct, since
it mandates that vendors at the University
ensure sustainability for the general public.
Now, why should a University student be
concerned about allthis?Indiaisvery far away,
right? What does it matter if Coke is destroy-
ing or depleting water resources there? Why
does it matter to people in Michigan?
It matters a great deal. At a time when
America's image and reputation is taking a
severe battering abroad, the University could
have sent a message to the world, showing
that there are still American institutions that

do the right thing and do not practice double
standards. Instead, by winking at Coke's vio-
lation of its policies, the University is sending
a pitiful message to the rest of the world. It is
illustrating that American institutions, even
highly regarded institutions like America's
flagship universities, are willing to practice
double standards to protect and enable a Unit-
ed States-based corporation. This effectively
gives them a pass to do whatever they like
abroad with a wink and a nod.
What kind of message does this send to the
rest of the world?
Sayan Bhattacharyya is a
Rackham graduate student.
JASON MAHAKIAN
"1f George W. Bush were
to run for President
a aim in 2008 "
-r

Three-thousand, five-hundred
dollars. That's precisely how
much I paid to volunteer in
Uganda, Africa for
two months last
summer. I knew
when I applied for
the program that
the concept of pay-
ing to volunteer was
strange, but by the '
time my flight took W
off for Entebbe the ASHLEA
backwardness of
it had been drilled SURLES
into my conscious-
ness by everyone
who knew the details of my trip and
particularly the lump sum that I had
ponied up. I was ready to smack the
next person to make an artful quip
about letting me house clean if I paid
$20. Up until then, I had been sustain-
ing my dignity by telling myself that
it would all be worth it because I was
payingto help humanity.
But after a couple of weeks working
in a rural community - surrounded
by children with swollen tummies,
sores all over and roughly a one-in-
ten chance to live past the age of five
- and watching villagers waste away
from preventable diseases, I felt help-
less. I soon confronted the harsh real-
ity that undergraduate volunteer trips
abroad are inherently self-serving.
When undergraduate students
go to developing nations, we aren't
equipped with special skills or career
experience to share. We don't have
money to invest. And we are far from
possessing any significant degree of
diplomatic leverage to spur systemic
change. It would be self-righteous to
think otherwise: that we actually have
a significant impact on the crumbling
communities in which we volunteer.
Sure you may have taught a couple of
primary school classes, handed out a

few dozen pills or planted some seeds.
(And your unabashed undergraduate
enthusiasm likely ensured that you
did a fantastic job.) The value of expe-
riencing diverse cultures cannot be
given short shrift either.
But the bitter and ill-accepted truth
is that our money, which is devoured
by the costs of airfare, lodging, food
and the like, would undoubtedly be
more effective if donated to organiza-
tions other than British Airways and
short-term programs that vaunt clever
phrases like "intercultural explora-
tion." If your chief aim is to improve
the lot of those less fortunate, your
money would probably be more effi-
ciently spent providing resources to
local workers, particularly considering
that developing nations are often rife
with unemployment. Or it could be bet-
ter spent financing the trips of experts
who could more aptly teach and imple-
ment new methods and concepts.
Further proof of the self-indulgence
inherent to volunteering abroad is the
fact that there's an expanse of volun-
teer positions to-be filled in America.
So why spend thousands to go abroad
to help the destitute when nearly 10
percent of our own country lives below
the poverty line? We feel that we're
donating time and maybe a slice of
our program fees, and hence deserve
to get a cool global experience out of it
- that's why.
Don't get me wrong, volunteering in
any capacity is an exceptionally admi-
rable pursuit, especially considering a
growing, yet still meager, percentage
of privileged American students even
bother. But we must admit that we're
not made solely of altruism and caritas.
Acceptance of this is precisely what
can empower us to make our forays
abroad count as something more than a
month or two of hard work and photos
ops. Undergraduate trips to volunteer
abroad can have enormous humani-

tarian impact, but this isn't intrinsic to
the experience as it is to volunteering
locally. It is up to volunteers to make
the money and the time worthwhile in
the days, weeks, months and years fol-
lowing the trip. The actual selflessness
of traveling to other nations to volun-
teer lies in whether or not we do this.
The trips arm participants with the
range of knowledge and depth of per-
spective that can only be won through
experience, but it is up to us to become
more than simple voyeurs by commit-
ting to give back and change the status
quo when we return. In many ways, our
futures are more open now than they
will be at any other time in our lives
and, to a large extent, we can do any-
Volunteering
abroad is nice, but
it's not helping
thing we choose. Thus we are invested
with the unique power to commit our
lives to endeavors that we are passion-
ate about and feel are worth while.
Experiencing firsthand the perpetual
devastation and strain that wrack the
developing world and absorbing other
cultures while diffusing our own inevi-
tably shapes what undergraduates con-
sider to be "worth it."
Recognizing that no one truly reaps
immediate or significant benefits from
a volunteer trip means taking respon-
sibility for the fact that we are in con-
trol of the value of our investment and
must ensure that it pays off - not for
our sake, but for the sake of those we
aimed to help from the beginning.
Ashlea Surles can be reached
at ajsurles@umich.edu.

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