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February 09, 2009 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2009-02-09

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4A - Monday, February 9, 2009
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
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.
Releasing the funds
Shorter sentences will result in better prison policies
n addition to its more positive attractions - like the beautiful
Great Lakes and delicious Mackinac Island fudge - Michi-
gan is now one of only four states that spend more money
on prisons than higher education. More than 20 percent of the
state's general fund goes to the corrections system each year. The
high number of prisoners in the systems is partly due to Michi-
gan's release policies, which are much stricter than much of the
country. But with the state government needing to do all it can to
save money, the legislature is considering a new policy that could
save millions in its corrections budget by lessening the maximum
sentencing for prisoners. Such a change is long overdue, and the
legislature should implement this policy to free up state funding
and bring Michigan's treatment of prisoners more in line with the
rest of the country.


The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

I still have trouble with the drinks but I'm a good
cleaner; I can make a toilet shine like a Ferrari."
- Michael Gates Gill, a former advertising executive who went to work at Starbucks
after he was fired, commenting on his new job, as reported yesterday by CNN.
Haimiark invented all of
Vaentines Day Psh I hate them just to make a bck- Youdon't have a
teescamholidays man. t omake all the mindless Valentinedoy
drones spend money on
J.J ~candy. 4 Thatsbeside te pintt
r.. A s7 ar *
The Blac k(Berry);resident

Michigan spends $32,000 per year on
each prisoner. That's well above the nation-
al average of $23,876. And Michigan's more
than 40 prisons are home to about 50,000
prisoners. But not only does Michigan
house an excessive amount of inmates, it
holds them for longer periods than most
other states. A study published by the
Council of State Government showed that
the average maximum sentence in this state
is three times longer than the minimum -
another large difference from other state's
prison policies. These lengthy sentences
mean that Michigan sinks about $2.2 bil-
lion into the corrections system each year.
But a new policy, suggested in late Jan-
uary, could save the state $262 million
by 2015. Prisoners will be reviewed by a
parole board that won't subject them to
incarceration for more than 120 percent
of their minimum sentence. This change
attempts to match sentences to the com-
mitted crimes more reasonably. The policy
would still allow prisoners who are deemed
"high-risk" because of repeat or violent
offenses to remain in prison even after
served more than 120 percent of the mini-

mum sentence. Nonetheless, about 4,300
prisoners could be eligible for release.
Releasing these prisoners to save the
state money is more than just neces-
sary - it's desired. Michigan's correc-
tions department has been long-overdue
for a downsizing. And it's good that the
state is making cuts in places that should
be cut rather than from institutions like
higher education - upon which the state is
depending to diversify its manufacturing-
based economy. Long-term incarceration
does nothing to rehabilitate criminals back
into society, and Michigan's lengthy sen-
tences constitute a cruel and unfortunate
In the long run, carefully returning
prisoners who don't need to be incarcer-
ated into society is better for them and the
state's budget. And Michigan needs to allo-
cate its funding in places that will use the
money to help boost the suffering econo-
my. Passing this policy is a necessary way
to cut back on spending while at the same
time softening Michigan's prison standards
to deal with prisoners more humanely
and responsibly.

arack Obama just wouldn't
back down. They told him it
simply couldn't be done, but he
said he would find
a way. That's just
how trailblazers
No, I'm not
talking about the;
presidential elec-
tion - that would
be very cheesy.
I'm talking about IMRAN
Obama's decisionto
do what a president SYED
in this age simply
must do: stay con-
nected. After winning the election,
Obama was told his texting days were
over. Citing security concerns and
the Presidential Records Act - which
theoretically makes all presidential
correspondence subject to public
review (eventually) - commentators
were pretty certainthat Obama would
be handing in his BlackBerry.
Bucking that expectation, Obama
has become the first emailing presi-
dent, though he's using a smart phone
you and I can only dream of - alleg-
edly a $3,350 National Security Agen-
cy-approved, supremely secure and
encrypted device called the Sectera
The popular opinion is that this
is a great step forward for the presi-
dency and our democracy. I have to
agree that there's no reason for a man
to change who he is the moment he
becomes president and Obama has
shown that he understands that. And
yet I can't help but wonder about how
this will affect the stalker society we
now live in.
Any public figure should think
twice about texting or emailing after
seeing the example of disgraced ex-
Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and
his decidedly revolting (yet ground-
breaking) "text-sex" scandal. Jus-
tice was served in Kilpatrick's case
because he had a texting device and

exercised zero judgment in using it.
The justice part is all well and good,
but do you recall the morbid, sicken-
ing rapture with which that scandal
played out?
Maybe that's a bad example. (Then
again, can you imagine a Bill Clinton
presidency in the age of texting?) one
would certainly hope that we'll never
(again) have a president that will
have things so disgusting and unethi-
cal to text about. But still, that one
bad example is no exception. From
Michael Richards's racist tirade atl
the Laugh Factory to Christian Bale's
psychotic meltdown on the set of the
new Terminator movie ("What don't
you f@#!in' understand?"), we have
plenty of examples of how technol-
ogy is making public things that oth-
erwise would have stayed private.
While there hopefully won't be
any wild parties or illegal firings for
Obama's White House staff to text
about, there will be plenty of impor-
tant information being exchanged.
Obama himself might have a James
Bond-esque devicethat ispresumably
safe from hackers and wiretappers,
but his top staffers almost certainly
won't. In one form or another, those
texts will get out.
Perhaps you're among the major-
ity that see nothing wrong with that.
After all, all the examples I have
provided are of technology uncov-
ering wrongs that otherwise would
have slipped under the radar. But
may I suggest that there is a limit to
how much we should know about the
detailed, day-to-day inner workings
of our government? Or is that a hope-
less argument for all you Facebook
stalkers out there?
Interestingly, I recently read com-
mentary suggesting that a texting
presidency will be bad for our coun-
try for reasons entirely unrelated to
personal human privacy. In a post
titled "Obama's BlackBerry threatens
history," blogger Mark Everett Hall
lamented the fact that so much of

Obama's electronic correspondence
will be digital, deletable and inacces-
sible to historians. While I fear for
what might be revealed, Hall fears for
what might not.
What obama's
texting means for
our 'stalker' society.
In a way, our opposing view-
points don't disagree, but just show
that we're talking past each other.
For example, I agree that much of
Obama's correspondence will be wor-
thy of documentation for historical
purposes, but I doubt very much that
any of his texts or emails might be so
As a society, we've come to respect
the work of bloggers, stringers, eye-
reporters and YouTubers a9 crucial
to an open, functional democracy in
the digital age. But with that must
come the grounding revelation ,that
government is still government tand
there are things about it that ought
to not be known. I know most readers
will greet those words with a scoff
of virtuous disagreement and that's
why I am afraid.
President Obama must have his
smartphone because texting is a fact
of life. But while he can have all the
encryption in the world, the only
thing that will truly protect the vital,
core intimacy of a functional govern-
ment is a conscious effort on our part
to draw a line.
But, of course, that's the whole
problem: Stalkers don't understand
- Imran Syed was the Daily's
editorial page editor in 2007. He can
be reached at galad@umich.edu.


Rackham proposal ignores
students' concerns

"goals" of Rackham,s
pletion rates whiles
the time to geta degr:
citations of various st
goal could be reachec

TO THE DAILY: thing on continuousE
Thursday's front-page story on the continu- The working groi
ous enrollment proposal by Rackham (Rack- and perhaps uninte
ham dean pitches new enrollment policy, 2/4/09) proposal. These inc
correctly notes that the policy "would require flexibility as they pi
a student to register, every semester, from gram, the potential,
matriculation to degree completion." to pay tuition fees
Then, the article seems to reprint a Rackham won't fund them, ci
press release by continuing, "It is expected to undertake cutting-.
increase student flexibility" without providing decreasing demogra
evidence for this claim. But this is not the fault of ing departments to
the reporter because this evidence doesn't exist. through a program
A working group of concerned graduate stu- students from UMa
dents has been considering the further impli- restrictive policies.
cations that Rackham may have brushed over I would apprecia
in its publicity materials. This group had a running a story fror
meeting with Dean Janet Weiss during the fall most affected by this
semester, where she reassured that the proposal dents themselves.
would not negatively impact any students when
implemented. The group requested background Shaun McGirr
research on how the policy would achieve the Ph.D.pre-candidate

such as the increasing com-
simultaneously decreasing
ee. The document provided
tudies, suggesting how this
d, but did not mention any-
up has identified possible
nded, implications of the
lude: decreasing student
roceed through their pro-
that students be required
if departments can't or
omplicating the ability to
edge external research,
phic diversity by pressur-
admit students who will
, and deterring the best
away to schools with, less
te if you would consider
m the perspective of those
s proposal - graduate stu-

A trade the environment needs



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A few weeks ago, the Daily pub-
lished a viewpoint about the costs
of Obama's proposed cap-and-trade
system (Cap-and-trade fantasies,
01/27/09). Although there were some
merits to the article, the author's
arguments regarding the effective-
ness of this policy and the importance
of climate change were seriously
The majority of scientists and poli-
cymakers agree that climate change is
real and significant and the time for
debate is over. We've all read the sta-
tistics about temperatures changing,
sea levels rising and melting glaciers.
It may be hard to imagine how those
changes will affect daily lives, but
the effects are already occurring in
real and tangible ways. Drought and
changing rain patterns have turned
once-fertile farms in Sub-Saharan
Africa into deserts, and occasional
flash floods strip the land of topsoil,
causing more. farmers to move to cit-
ies. If global average temperature rises
two degrees (it's already risen by one
in the past century), scientists pre-
dict that Bangladesh will experience
such severe flooding that virtually the
entire country will be under water.
Implementing a cap-and-trade
system would narrow the scope of
the problems associated with climate
change. As the world's leader in ener-
gy use, we can have a tremendous
impact both domestically and abroad.
President Obama has not promised to
end global warming and, like all of us,
he understands we cannot solve the
problem completely. But the costs of
doing nothing would be far greater
than the cost of action. Many of the
criticisms concerning the cap-and-

trade program stem from the poten-
tial effects on the manufacturing
and energy industries. What these
critics fail to realize is that climate
change will have a far more devastat-
ing ecohomic effect in other sectors.
From 1980 to 1989, for example, the
United States suffered $80 billion
of weather-related property dam-
age. From 1988 to 1997, the country
incurred $290 billion in damages, of
which only $83 billion was covered by
insurance. If climate change contin-
ues on its current path, U.S. agricul-
tural yields could decrease 10 percent
by 2020. Though the immediate cost
of regulating emissions is higher than
what we are used to, we cannot afford
to do nothing.
Now is the time to make these
kinds of changes. The previous view-
point argued that the fragile economy
cannot handle the changes involved
in a cap-and-trade program. Yet this
ignores the benefits of increased
efficiency and investment in new
technology that lead to more jobs.
Furthermore, the U.S. is hardly the
first nation to implement such a pro-
gram. The European Union started a
similar system in January 2005 that
resulted in "a much higher reduction
in greenhouse gas emissions than the
U.S. without the catastrophic eco-
nomic consequences some predict for
Obama's initiative.
There are already cap-and-trade
programs in place even within the
U.S. The Chicago Climate Exchange,
a carbon credit exchange that busi-
nesses voluntarily join, started in
2000 with several big-name mem-
bers, including DuPont and Ford
Motor Company. Ten Northeastern

states began their own trading sys-
tem, the Regional Greenhouse Gas ,
Initiative, earlier this year.
There is alsothe criticismthatcosts
will be transferred to the consumer.
Regardless of any cap-and-trade sys-
tem, energy costs are going to increase
as traditional energy sources become
scarce. no matter what, increased
conservation will be necessary. Amer-
icans have enjoyed a century of cheap
energy and, as a result, use more than
anyone else. In 2002, the U.S. created
20 tons per capita of greenhouse gas,
compared to 12.2 tons per capita for
all wealthy nations and the 3 tons per
capita global average. There is huge
potential for energy conservation,
which could balance out increases
in household electricity costs. Some
electricity companies are already
encouraging people to save electricity
through metering and other monitor-
ing methods.
No one is claiming this will be easy
and Obama certainly never claimed
to be able to "solve" climate change.
But the risk involved in doing noth-
ing is too great to ignore. Even if all
the critics are right and the effects of
climate change are not catastrophic,
all we will have done is ensure that
our children and grandchildren will
have cleaner air, cleaner water, and
all of the resources that we have been
able to enjoy. If that is the minimum
that we will accomplish from tak-
ing action through government pro-
grams like cap-and-trade, it will be
well worth it.
Megan Spitz, Rachel Slezakand
Sarah Duffy are members of the College
Democrats' Environmental Committee.





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