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November 10, 2008 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-11-10

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4A - Monday, November 10, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


myMid iig'an Baly
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard Sc.
AnnyArbod, MI 48109


On Tuesday night, it was like the whole world
was celebrating New Year's Eve. I know there
were a lot of Obama babies made that night."
- Comedian Ian Edwards, during a comedy set at the Laugh Factory this weekend,
as reported yesterday by the Los Angeles Times.




Unsigned editorials reflect the officialposition ofthe Daily's editorial board.All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views oftheir authors.
Breathing easier
State legislature should get to work to pass smoking ban
oliticians are known for their huffing and puffing. But as the
Michigan state legislature heads into its lame duck session,
it should work to keep the rest of us from having to do as
much of that. Atop the list of potential projects is a long-overdue
ban on smoking in public places, a ban that came close to passing
this summer but was torpedoed by the Republican-controlled Sen-
ate. Though smoking is a personal choice, the consequences for the
people nearby are a much more important consideration - one that
warrants the state legislature's protection.



T,1K Y 0U

fI. C
(\ rW
E A Ns


This summer, the Michigan state legisla-
ture almost passed a bill identical to the one
being considered now. In its version of the
bill, the House of Representatives banned
smoking in public places, with exceptions
for businesses that rely heavily on revenue
from smoking, like smoking bars. In its
version of the bill, the Senate allowed no
exceptions. Because no compromise could
be reached, the bill never became law.
But while the bill died this summer,
the problem didn't. By now, most people
should know that smoking has terrible
consequences for your health, includ-
ing an increased risk of deadly diseases
like lung cancer and emphysema. Smok-
ers know that, and accept those risks. But
non-smokers don't. When they are invol-
untarily exposed to secondhand smoke,
which inevitably happens despite efforts
to maintain separate smoking sections and
proper ventilation, these non-smokers are
being unfairly punished for someone else's
personal choice.
This is especially a problem for employ-
ees who work at places where smoking is
allowed. The wait staff at restaurants, for
example, have no choice whether or not
their customers light up, but the second-
hand smoke still affects them. These people
often can't just go find another job for the

benefit of their health, because those jobs
might not exist. And these workers aren't
getting better health care benefits to cover
their potential illnesses. A job should be a
healthy environment, not one where work-
er have to worry about choosing between
money and health.
Opponents ofthebill argue thatbusiness-
es will lose money and customers if smok-
ers are forced to move onto the sidewalk to
enjoy a cigarette. That argument, however,
goes both ways. People who avoid cigarette
smoke would be more likely to flock to bars
and restaurants if they become smoke-free.
Smokers can relax outside without hav-
ing a detrimental effect on those eating or
drinking around them.
New York and Ohio have already passed
similar smoking bans. While some bar
owners in New York complained of lost
revenue, most restaurants and bars have
increased business since the smoking ban
took effect. Air quality in bars and restau-
rants has gone up, and that's good news for
everyone, workers and patrons alike.
It is time for the Michigan state legis-
lature to resume its role of protecting the
public health. Businesses will not suffer if
smokers take a break to step outside for a
few minutes. And then we can all breathe
a little easier.

Translating hope into action

Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Elise Baun, Harun Buljina, Ben Caleca, Satyajeet Deshmukh,
Brian Flaherty, Matthew Green, Emmarie Huetteman, Emma Jeszke, Shannon Kellman,
Edward McPhee, Emily Michels, Kate Peabody, Matthew Shutler, Robert Soave, Eileen Stahl,
Jennifer Sussex, Imran Syed, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder, Margaret Young
The Daily is looking for smart people with an interest in campus issues
and excellent writing skills to be members of its editorial board.
A reluctant celebration

We have finally reached the
end of an historic (and his-
torically long) election,
and as the celebra-
tory atmosphere
subsides and the
initial tears (of joy
and mourning) dry
up, we prepare to
watch the dramatic X
transformation of
a man from candi-
date to president. BRYAN
Like the caterpil-
lar to the butterfly, KOLK
the change is often-
dramatic, but in the
political world it is far less predict-
This is part of our political pro-
cess; we recognize that the person
running for office is a caricature of
the one who will eventually hold the
position. Frankly, this is also one of
the saving graces of American democ-
racy. Already, if his eloquent conces-
sion speech is any indication, John
McCain is once again becoming the
straight-talking senator that everyone
respected before he debased his core
maverick-ness in an attempt to appeal
to far-right conservatives.
In President-elect Barack Obama,
however, we are observing a broader
redefinition - that of a whole politi-
cal philosophy. Despite claims of pie-
in-the-sky liberal activism, we are
seeing a pragmatic and progressive
president taking shape.
Throughout all the campaign-
ing and up to the election, the major
criticisms faced by Obama were fear-
mongering allegations of socialism
and unrealistic idealism. The impli-
cation was that a progressive govern-
ment had goals that were far too lofty
and means that were far too invasive.
I personally do not find "lofty goals"
to be a disagreeable trait, nor do I see
a way in which conservatives who
backed Bush can criticize anyone
about governmental invasiveness (or

even spending). But already, less than
a week later, we are seeing these criti-
cisms in a new light.
Republicans favor these criticisms
as a result of fundamental differences
between the two parties. Conserva-
tives have viewed the role of the gov-
ernment in regulating the economy
and in assisting citizens with basic
needs like health care and educa-
tion as a necessary evil, something
to be kept at a minimum. Every man
for himself - isn't that the American
But in our current economic down-
turn,more and more people arerealiz-
ing the impossibility of the American
dream. Capitalism does not allow any-
one to do anything; it is a pyramid, in
which somebody is always at the top,
and many more people are always at
the bottom. If the government merely
stands back and watches, the pyramid
just gets steeper, and equality gets
further away.
The McCain camp, fans of stand-
ing back and watching, tried to scare
people away from an alternative
structure by crying "socialism!" - a
battle cry intended to blindly frighten
people away from a man who wanted
to seize their wealth. But it became
quickly apparent that Obama did not
wish to end capitalism. His goal was
simply that of economic equality -
the belief in the government's respon-
sibility to provide its citizens with the
most level playing field possible.
The word "socialism" has histori-
cally entailed much more than that.
A more appropriate term for Obama's
position would be "progressivism;"
using the powers we have vested
in our government to help every-
one achieve happiness, rather than
entrusting people's fates to those who
have much from being too greedy.
During times of economic pros-
perity, many are content to trust the
fates to keep their world spinning. But
now we are seeing the downfalls of
an unchecked economy. SUVs are (or

were) living proof that greed trumps
long-term planning in business. The
housing industry is no different.
And now we have a president-elect
who seems keen to keep us focused on
long-term solutions. The rhetoric was
there all through Obama's campaign. 4
But it looked a lot less like the activ-
ism of the '60s and more like an activ-
ism based in reality.
In his first press conference since
the election, Obama's mood was
decidedly somber. Flanked by 17 eco-
nomic advisors, Obaina described
goals for the economy that were no
less idealistic, but talk of "hope" and
"change" was replaced by a need to
"think practically" and "make tough
decisions." The announcement of
The progressive
ideology behind an
Obama presidency.
Rahm Emanuel, a no-nonsense politi-
cal orchestrator, as chief of staff is
also indicative of this shift - hope is
getting down to business.
Our nation has placed its trust in
this man. Almost every single state
voted more Democratically than it
had in the last election (including Ari-
zona) - the American people, even
those maintainingconservative social
values, are interested in a government
that does more rather than less. In the
coming weeks, I believe we will be
watching the transformation of ideal-
ism into pragmatism. With a majority
in the House of Representatives and
Senate, Obama now has the opportu-
nity to redefine the practical applica-
tion of a progressive philosophy.
Bryan Kolk can be reached
at beakerk@umich.edu.

I didn't cry. That may sound blasphemous to
my black identity, but "it," perhaps, just hasn't
hit me yet. Don't get me wrong. That was defi-
nitely me at the Blue Leprechaun on victory
night, downing glasses of champagne, shaking it
like a Polaroid picture, hugging people I didn't
know - celebrating the first black president in
the history of the United States.
But celebration became complicated right
around WednesdaymorningwhenIencountered
a New York Times headline that read "Racial
barrier falls in decisive victory." Many televi-
sion networks and commentators have begun
using the term "post-racial," as if to imply that
electing a person of color to the presidency has
been the sole quest of civil rights organizations
that have sought racial justice through protest
and other forms of direct action for decades.
In the past few days, prominent African
Americans who organized in the Civil Rights
Movement have been given many platforms to
recant the gruesome details of state-sponsored
(police) and vigilante-initiated (Ku Klux Klan)
violent racism in their lives.
Briskly, the interviewer dashes forward to
2008 and asks them how it felt to have Obama
elected. With all this access to some of the most
productive civil rights activists of our time, one
would think a point of inquiry would be: What is
on the contemporary racial justice agenda?
Instead, this then-and-now presentation of
racism in America obscures a fact that Obama
made clear in his victory speech when he
declared that, "This victory alone is not the
change we seek - it is only the chance for us to
make that change."
Interestingly enough, John McCain's conces-
sion speech perceived Obama's victory differ-
ently. He argued thatAmerica is "a world away"
from the bigotry that existed a century ago. Fur-
ther, he noted that Obama's presidency was a
testament to that distance.
This was hard for me to grasp, considering
that in late 2006, I protested alongside thou-
sands of people who were lamenting the ump-
teenth police-related death of a black man, Sean
Bell, who had been gunned down by New York
police; last year I had attended marches with
thousands of people assemblingto free thes"Jena
6," a group ofblack high school students in Loui-

siana who had been given unfair criminal sen-
tences when they responded to racism at their
school; also in late 2007, I stood alongside hun-
dreds of people to advocate on behalf of Megan
Williams, a 20 year old who had been brutally
raped and victimized by a family of whites in
West Virginia.
Alas, the tearful joy experienced by my family
members and friends is something I can't bring
myself to until the change is actually effected.
This is perhaps because I fear that my celebra-
tion will be misread as a celebration of change
that hasn't fully arrived.
Great harm can be done to the progress we've
made over decades if we read the election of the
first black president, in and of itself, as finally
bidding farewell to the affirmative action con-
versation or policy discourses on black poverty,
police brutality and disproportionate violence
against black women.
This analysis isn't meant to cast doubt on the
historic importance of having a black male pres-
ident. I write this as someone who opted out of
New Year's festivities this year to trudge around
New Hampshire knocking on doors in minus-7
degree weather for Obama.
I merely plead for us to recognize that prog-
ress isn't just seen in the realm of elected rep-
resentation. All of the undergraduate activism I
was enlisted in that focused on issues of educa-
tion disparity, police brutality at campus parties
and African American college retention never
sought to elect a black president. The presidency
is 1 percent of 100 things, as the saying goes, and
these issues remain despite this week's joyous
The biggest lesson I have learned from this
election is that I live in a country where those
who are committed to bringing about racial
justice outnumber those who are not. And this
makes me proud to be both African and Ameri-
can considering that there is much work to be
These days, I have deferred to a pragmatic
kind of celebration, the kind that is preoccupied
with a line of Obama's e-mail blast on victory
night, "I'll be in touch soon about what comes
Rose Afriyie is a Public Policy graduate student.


Athletes don't deserve
scheduling privileges

don't have the luxury of participat-
ing in sports or clubs or a soror-
ity. If student-athletes choose to
make their sport their priority, they
need to adjust accordingly and do

TU THE DAILY: so without n
After reading Friday's article in dations than
the Daily about the new policy giv-
ing student-athletes priority over Erin Green
other students except those with dis- LSA junior
abilities ('U' gives athletes first pick
of classes, 11/07/2008), I want to say /_)7_
that this is absolutely ridiculous and GIald
an insult to all those other students hope foi
who work hard in school and have
other responsibilities and activitiesa d o
outside of class. When a student-ath-
lete makes a commitment to an ath-
letic team, that person should accept TO THE DAI
the responsibilities of being on that The day a
team as well as being a student. This talking to a f
includes scheduling difficulties. she spoke of
What about students like myself, others share
who have two jobs to pay for their Barack Oba
tuition (a tuition many student ath- speech. I am
letes don't have to pay)? It is often hard tears shed th
for me to schedule classes around my and some of;
two jobs, but I do it because I accept my friend w
the responsibilities of both. I don't was cheering
get any special preferences. seemed as if
Because I have chosen to make ers" were cr
school and work my priorities, I generationsu

more special accommo-
they already receive.
's victory offers
r bright future
rce ofpride
fter the election, I was
friend on the phone and
the tears of joy she and
d when President-elect
ma made his victory
sure there were many
iat evening, some of joy
sadness. What surprised
,as generationally who
and who was crying. It
all of the "Baby Boom-
rying, and the younger
were cheering.

That made me wonder if first-time
voters and those inGeneration X were
aware of the healingthey afforded the
millions of people who suffered from
a lifetime of oppression passed down
from previous generations. Right out
of the gate, these voters have had a
monumental impact toward change
in so many ways. They looked beyond
race and toward what seems good
for the human race. They judged not
based on stereotype and hatred, but
turned toward peace and hope. They
made a decision based on possibility
rather than fear.
But let's also not forget those
mature adults. They were the ones
who took a deep breath and let go of
their fear and movedtoward whatthey
felt would make a difference in the
spiraling downward direction of this
great country. I just want to say thank
you to all of you for the renewal and
healing. I know that this is one step in
the many that will need to be taken to
change the course in the environment
of our planet, country and lives, but
I have faith and a sense of renewed
belief that "we can make it work."

Wasentha Young


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