4A - Wednesday, September 10, 2008
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Ann Arbor, MI 48109
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
"You can put lipstick on a pig, but
it's still a pig."
- Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, criticizing the Republican Party's adaptation
of his reform message at a speech in Vermont, as reported yesterday by ABC News.
A YouTu be-based rug olic
EDITOR IN CHIEF
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflectthe official position oftthe Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views of their authors.
FROM T HE DAItY
Lecture today continues needed dialogue about Sept.11
n Sept. 11; 2001, the United States came face-to-face with
its own mortality, prompting the question that crossed the
minds and lips of most Americans: Why? As a center for
knowledge, the University became an integral part of the search for
understanding. Sevenyears later, the School of Public Policy has kept
this dialogue going in the form of an annual lecture series devoted
to the understanding of what happened that day - and every day
since. But unless students attend these lectures and engage in this
conversation, they risk losing the value of this tragedy.
Salvia - if you've heard of it you
a) need to put down your
bong for a bit and
get some fresh air
b) need to pry
your eyes from You-
Tube for a few min- %
utes and get some
fresh air or
c) need to do a
little more drugs,
watch a little more
YouTube and get GARY
a little more fresh GRACA
air because you're
an avid New York
In any case, what you probably
know about salvia is just about as
much as most scientists, researchers
and politicians: very little. Unfortu-
nately, people haven't used that lack of
knowledge as a research opportunity;
they've used it as a fear tactic.
Salvia is an increasingly popu-
lar (and therefore dangerous and
demonic) drug that has been gaining
the affection of teenagers across the
country for more than a decade. It's
a strong hallucinogenic herb from
the mint family that is smoked or
sometimes chewed to induce a 5-to-
15-minute trip supposedly similar to
LSD. (No, I don't know from personal
Among the very little research done
on salvia, no studies have found it
addictive, and - take this with a grain
of salt - most have found minimal
And, oh yeah, did I mention that
it's still legal in 37 states, including
Michigan? You can even buy it at
local head shop Stairway to Heaven.
Cue the unnecessary, knee-jerk pub-
As you would expect, salvia is likely
on the fast track to criminalization
now that word of it has gotten out.
Ironically, the force behind salvia's
popularity is now behind its quickly
deteriorating social acceptability.
For decades, salvia's use was lim-
ited almost exclusively to Mazatec
shamans in Oaxaca, Mexico. But since
the 1990s, its use has spread across the
world thanks to (you guessed it) the
Internet. Online markets like Maza-
tec Gardens have quietly (and legally)
built a customer base for the drug in
the underground psychedelic culture.
Now, as The Times reported yester-
day, an estimated 1.8 million people
have tried salvia in their lifetimes,
according to a recent survey by the
federal government. Not surprisingly,
popularity is highest among college
students. A 2007 survey of 1,500 San
Diego State University students found
that 4 percent had tried salvia.
But salvia's Internet popularity
backfired. And it has YouTube of all
places to blame. The site where stu-
pid people usually go to post videos of
themselves making their best "Jack-
ass" impression, YouTube now fea-
tures more than 5,000 salvia-related
videos - most of people saying and
doing ridiculously stupid things while
on the drug. In one of the more popu-
lar ones, "Driving on salvia," a guy
takes a hit of salvia while sitting in
the front seat of a car, but ultimately
doesn't do anything but sit there and
look spaced out.
In the absence of real scientific
evidence about salvia's effects, these
YouTube videos have become Exhibit
lA in the drug's trial in the court of
public opinion. And we all know how
representative YouTube is of social
Sadly, YouTube has been central to
the debate here in Michigan, where
a bill banning salvia passed the state
House of Representatives unanimous-
ly in March but is still under review in
the Senate Committee on Health Poli-
cy. According to the Metro Times, the
man who sponsored the House bill,
Rep. Michael Sak (D-Grand Rapids) -
when pressed to explain how he knew
about the drug's effects - instructed a
reporter to "go to YouTube, and look
up 'crazy ass salvia video."'
To be fair, Sak was probably frus-
trated with the reporter's tenacity
and said the first thing that came to
his mind. What Sak should have been
frustrated about, though, was the poor
evidence backingup his bill.
Personally, I couldn't care less if
salvia use becomes punishable with a
life-in-prison sentence or so popular
that my mom smokes it before dinner.
lawmakers turn to
However, I care that whatever deci-
sion between these two extremes that
legislators make is made for a good
reason. If a drug is dangerous, either
label it if you think people can make
an informed choice about it or crimi-
nalize it if it's so detrimental to soci-
ety that it shouldn't be around. What
you don't do is make policy, especially
drug policy, based on a whim. Or a
No one knows much about salvia
right now. That doesn't mean you
should use it or that you should fear
it. It does mean we should find out
about it before we decide.
Gary Graca is the Daily's
editorial page editor. He can be
reached at emeracawumich.edu
The Josh Rosenthal Education Fund
Lecture is named for a University alum
who died in the South Tower of the World
Trade Center. His mother, late University
Professor Emeritus Marilynn Rosenthal,
endowed the series in his memory using
her share of the Sept. 11 victims Compen-
sation Fund. The School of Public Policy
invites a distinguished guest to give the
lecture each September. Speakers such as
Sen. Carl Levin and Larry Cox, the execu-
tive director of Amnesty International
USA, have given the lecture in past years.
In the spirit of seeking understanding
that characterized Prof. Rosenthal's griev-
ing process, this lecture series seeks to
counteract the most profound consequence
of the terrorist attacks: fear. It is that fear
that has mired our nation in an ill-consid-
ered war and turned us against one another
at home. It has driven us to measure presi-
dential candidates in terms of patriotism,
scrutinizing flaglapel pins like they present
an accurate gauge of the ability to lead.
What our nation needs - and what we
really need as the heirs to its strengths and
weaknesses alike - is to understand. We
need to talk about why the United States
was attacked and why we reacted the way
we did. We need to talk about what Islam
is and what radical Islam is. We need to
talk about the human rights violations
we've perpetrated in the name of protect-
ing our own. And we need to talk about
what comes next.
This year's guest is David Marash, a
veteran journalist who has worked as an
anchor at Al Jazeera English and ABC
News Nightline's chief international cor-
respondent. With the benefit of almost
half a century of journalistic observations,
he will give a speech titled "The Medium
is Not the Message," encouraging the Uni-
versity community to consider the global
dissemination of information and the
media's role in it. He will speak today at 4
p.m. in the Annenberg Auditorium at the
School of Public Policy.
With years separating us from the over-
whelming emotions of that day, it's incum-
bent on us as students and as Americans to
use Marash's perspective to our advantage.
We have the knowledge and resources of
the University at our disposal to encour-
age our development as informed citizens,
capable of leading our generation. If we
squander opportunities for growth like
the Rosenthal lecture, then we risk being
no wiser than we were on Sept. 10, 2001.
But seven years later, there's no excuse.
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Harun Buljina, Emmarie Huetteman, Emily Michels, Kate Peabody, Robert Soave, lmran Syed
SCOTT KURASHIGE IT
What is a community organizer?
ELAINE MORTONI W EN NTUR CALLS
E-MAIL ELAINE AT EMORT@UMICH.EDU
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JONATHAN SLEMROD NE Y
Two parties, same big govt
I have a simple and honest talking point ing $10 trillion, Obama and McCain seem to
that both Barack Obama and John McCain have determined that the only logical solu-
can use this campaign season: "I will expo- tion to our long-term problems is to spend
nentially grow the size and scope of gov- even more.
ernment." Indeed, politics of personality A responsible platform that truly embod-
and feel-good adjectives such as "change," ied change and reform would focus on the
"hope" and "'reform" have replaced any sub- big issues that threaten to bankrupt our
stantive discussion of the reality that nei- country: Social Security, Medicare and
ther candidate will fight our country's real Medicaid.
problem: big government. The trustees of Social Security and Medi-
Anyone familiar with the tax-spend-regu- care estimated a couple years ago that Social
late-repeat mantra of the Democratic Party Security will begin paying out more than
knows that Obama's notion of "change" is the amount of revenue it receives in 2017;
feeble. His platform of increasing taxes on necessitating a solution that puts citizens,
everything from energy to investment will not politicians, in charge of their futures.
surely satisfy big-spending politicians in Obama has proposed (you guessed it!) a
Washington, D.C., eager to delve into the tax hike to solve the problem, while McCain
hundreds of billions in new government has reluctantly endorsed a more favorable
spending he has proposed. approach that allows workers to designate
Obama regularly attacks "Big Oil," conve- a fraction of their contributions for private
niently avoidingthe factthiat he voted to give accounts.
$85 billion in tax breaks and subsidies to the Common sense, free-market solutions to
energy industry in the Energy Policy Act the entitlement crises exist, but neither can-
of 2005. His ideology injects more govern- didate has stepped up to the plate to con-
ment into health care, bails out everything sider them.
from Fannie Mae to Detroit automakers and Instead, Obama and McCain prefer to
willingly grabs the "excessive" profits of oil argue over the babies of the daughters of
companies for new spending programs. vice presidents, what someone's wife said
This is not to say that McCain is a saint. and who is more patriotic. I submit this: A
His "maverick" affinity for bipartisanship true patriot - Democrat or Republican -
has led to sweeping restrictions on free desires to expand individual liberty, tackle
speech through campaign finance reform the out-of-control growth of government
and an increasingly interventionist and and ensure that future generations have the
costly foreign policy. same opportunities we have been afforded.
McCain joined Obama in supporting The long-term challenges we face as a coun-
the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, try won't be solved by higher taxes, more
which legitimizes the illegitimate act of wasteful spending and increased govern-'
warrantless wiretapping of American citi- mentregulation, regardless of how political-
zens. McCain's opposition to earmarks and , ly popular these solutions may be this week.
wasteful spending deserves praise, but like Reducing the size of government allows the
Obama, he supports an enormously bur- free market to flourish, increasing freedom
densome cap-and-trade scheme that will and prosperity for all.
substantially increase energy prices and Any other approach is like putting out fire
damage our economy while having little, if with gasoline.
any, effect on carbon emissions.
The rapid growth of government endorsed Jonathan Slemrod is an LSA junior
by both candidates is not a sustainable path and the co-chair of the University's
for our country. With a national debt near- chapter of College Libertarians.
The national discussion of com- self-styled "community organizers" dates to their word whentheyntell us
munity organizers over the .past fit the stereotype all too well. that the American system of repre-
weekhaspiquedmyinterestbecause But the flipside of the attack on sentative democracy is broken. Cor-
I've been involved in some kind of community organizers is that it is porate interests have taken control
community organizing my whole inspiring thousands of progressives of Washington D.C., leaving us with
adult life. I've tried to incorporate to invest even more energy in the too many politicians in both parties
the lessons I've learned into the campaign. Moreover, it is expos- devoid of courage, accountability
courses I teach on Detroit and social ing how completely out -of touch or authenticity. What is required is
movements, and I'm currently writ- the Republicans are with the most a social movement that will make
ing two books tied to my communi- politically active and astute young Washington responsive to par-
ty-based research. Americans. This means that no ticipatory democracy, the ongoing
So here are my two cents. matter who wins in November, the practice of ordinary people shaping
I guess a community organizer impact of the 2008 election will be the world through our day-to-day
is (pause) sort of like someone who felt for decades to come. And that activities and not just casting a bal-
gives a flashy speech (smile at the matters tremendously. lot every four years.
camera) at the Republican National The Republican model of "char- And community organizers -
Convention(snicker,snicker),except ity" may find soipe sincere and some paid, but most unpaid - are a
that you actually take responsibility noble expression in the work of critical part of building such a move-
to address the problems of the peo- Cindy McCain. But its central fail- ment. The best organizers work
ple and neighborhoods devastated ing is that it is too stained by the among the grassroots,
by inhumane corporate behavior getting to know the
and failed Washington leadership. people who make
John McCain helped bring this ----- up communities and
issue into focus when he exhort- gaining intimate
ed us to "defend the rights of the
oppressed" before shouting the / 7 -
word "fight" repeatedly and look-
inglike ahermetically sealed head
atop a malfunctioning robot on
the show "Futurama." Now he's
on the road with Sarah Palin, who T
has continued belittling the work of C
Is this what it has
come to in 2008? 5 it
The incumbent Av'5
party's candidates EU
to run as insurgents
seeking to overthrow
the Washington elite
by dissing community , /
Can you say cognitive a /
Politically, I get why lustration by Rose Jaffe
they are doing this.
With almost no chance to win legacy of noblesse oblige - the idea knowledge oftheir problemsinways
urban votes, McCain is making a that inequality is natural but the that can't be gleaned from the pho-
Nixonian "silent majority" appeal rich have a responsibility to help to-op appearances by typical politi-
to voters with "small-town values," the poor, if nothing else, to feel good cians. The best organizers empower
which includes those living just about themselves and ensure their people to express their needs and
north of 8 Mile Road. The "com- own safety. concerns, not just as individuals but
munity organizer" is a bogeyman. By contrast, living in, working also as a more powerful collective of
An "angry" agitator like Al Sharp- in and teaching about Detroit, I diverse but coordinated souls.
ton. An outsider invading people's have seen firsthand how the model Barack Obama was catapulted
space - sponsored by "liberal elites" of community organizing built by from longshot to nominee because
and the federal government - to the greatest humanity-stretching his most ardent supporters already
tell them how to live their lives. It movements in our history presents understood this. But in the end, no
wasn't long ago that Republicans a far more transformative idea of single charismatic leader - be that
like Ronald Reagan derided Martin social change. From a few victories person a prisoner of war or a broth-
Luther King Jr. for his ties to "com-, and many setbacks, from elders and er from the South Side - can bring
munism." youths, from veteran activists and about the change we so desperately
Sadly, this polarizing rhetoric wide-eyed students, I have gained need.
is still quite effective at keeping a deeper sense of what it means to That's up to all of us.
Americans divided and preventing survive, struggle and envision a bet-
those with common problems from ter world within what is arguably Scott Kurashige is an associate
working together to get at these the nation's most devastated big professor of American Culture
problems' root causes. Palin, the city. and History at the University. He
gun-toting moose hunter, is the ideal Community organizing is the is a research fellow at Harvard
messenger. And truth be told, some crucial vehicle to hold the candi- University this academic year.
I . A