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April 17, 2009 - Image 4

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4 - Friday, April 17, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
E-MAIL BELLA AT BELLZ@UMICH.EDU

L74C it1pan 43a1,6, I
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@umich.edu
GARY GRACA ROBERT SOAVE COURTNEY RATKOWIAK
EDITOR IN CHIEF EDITORIAL PAGE EDITOR MANAGING EDITOR
Unsigned editorials reflect the official position ofthe Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solely the views ofttheir authors.
Justice for all
U.S. should acknowledge need for human rights protection
T omorrow is the 61st anniversary of the International
Criminal Court in The Hague in the Netherlands. Cre-
ated after the atrocities of World War II, the court con-
tinues to grow as a protector of human rights. Today, the United
States' treatment of the detainees at its Guantanamo Bay deten-
tion center in Cuba stands as a constant reminder that fundamen-
tal human rights are still threatened. Though President Barack
Obama recently announced that he will close the detention center,
the United States still has much work to do to make up for its ques-
tionable human rights record. The nation should proceed from the
closing of Guantanamo Bay to take up its responsibility as a world
leader in the fight for human rights, at home and abroad.

BELLA SHAH

x0
No time-outs for activism

4

The symbol of America's disrespect for
basic human rights, the Guantanamo Bay
detention center was established by the
Bush administration in 2002 to hold pris-
oners who were captured in the war in
Afghanistan. All of these prisoners were
denied their right to challenge their deten-
tions. Some were tortured. And because
they were labeled "enemy combatants,"
they were supposed beyond the protective
reach of the Geneva Convention.
Three times, the U.S. Supreme Court
has ruled that parts of what was going on
at Guantanamo Bay were unconstitution-
al. In its latest ruling, the Court asserted
that these detainees have a right to chal-
lenge their detentions in U.S. courts. Since
this decision last year, conditions at Guan-
tanamo have improved. But the center
remained as a symbolic representation of
the Bush administration's flagrant disre-
gard for human rights. For this reason, on
Jan. 22, only a few weeks into his presi-
dency, Obama announced that he would
close the detention center at Guantanamo
within a year.
While the center's closure is long over-
due, we can't forget that more dubious
instances of human rights abuses are still
being perpetuated by the United States.
Until January, the Central Intelligence
Agency was allowed to torture prisoners,
though "torture" was cleverly disguised as

"special interrogation techniques." Addi-
tionally, the United States still exports
prisoners and tortures them behind the
borders of countries that do not uphold the
Geneva Conventions.
At the same time, human rights viola-
tions aren't just occurring in secret loca-
tions around the globe. Several human
rights groups have expressed their con-
cern that the way the United States treats
its criminals constitutes a human rights
failing. Immigration policy is another area
where the United States' record is dismal.
Obama has very real human rights crises
to address right here and right now. Simply
closing Guantanamo's doors won't solve
these problems.
The government must recognize that
these practices, no matter where they are,
are wrong. Obama's efforts to stop torture
speaks to the United State's commitment
to human rights - and it's about time.
The United States has been sending the
wrong message on human rights for far too
long. It's difficult for international efforts
against torture to gain the credibility they
deserve when the United States isn't lend-
ing its full support. The United States has
a responsibility to lead the fight to end
human rights violations.
It's time for Obama to make the United
States' commitment to human rights mean
more than just words.

T here's something amazing
happening on campuses in
Michigan... and I am not a
part of it. It's called
Power Shift, a =
student initiative m
promoting energy
efficient policies.
The more students
that get involved,
the more impact
the organization's
actions will have.
But just as difficult MEG
as changing envi- YOUNG
ronmental policy
is, there's another
difficulty that student groups like
Power Shift have to overcome, and
that's getting students to show up
in the first place - busy, neurotic
students. I chose not to show up for
a Power Shift event on Wednesday
night and I'm regretting it already.
I had good reasons for saying no -
it's practically finals time, for God's
sake. I had an exam to study for, a
paper to write and honestly didn't feel
like being in a car for two hours. But
when I turned down arideto Wednes-
day's public hearing to expand a Bay
City coal plant, I didn't say any of
those things. I just said, "I can't."
It's not that I misunderstood the
importance of the event, either.
Burning coal accounts for almost 30
percent of the United States's green-
house gas emissions. Fly ash from
coal plants contains toxic substances
such as arsenic, barium, boron, lead
and other heavy metals. Although
the latest buzzwords in the industry
are "clean coal," coal remains one
of the most carbon-intensive energy
sources available. It's poor planning
for the future as carbon emissions
will be regulated by the time capital

mobilizes such factories to be built.
It's a waste of money and a myth.
Science-based policy like electricity
generated by wind and solar power
can create safe places for our fami-
lies and futures.
The group behind Power Shift,
the Michigan Student Sustainabil-
ity Coalition, attracted my attention
some time ago. It was founded in
2006 as a cooperative effort between
the students of four Michigan col-
leges. This is the same group that
brought 430 Michigan college stu-
dents to Capitol Hill last winter to
lobby our representatives. They are
a group on campus that thinks big
and chooses events where our.poli-
cymakers are already listening.
I was already on board with this
cause. The fliers I'd been seeing
about the rally - "Say NO to coal in
Michigan!" had caught my eye for
weeks, but I never stopped to con-
sider them.
I was just, you know, busy.
I found out through friends that
this rally would take place at a public
hearing about whether to let the big-
gest coal plant in the state quadruple
its emissions. I was impressed that the
rally would have an audience with pol-
icymakers, but stayed home anyway.
I ended up missing out on seeing
morethanahundred collegestudents
from each major Michigan campus
show up in Bay City that night. About
75 were able to address comments at
the public hearing. Their message?
The 800-megawatt allowance (as
big as coal plants come) would be
throwing money into an antiquated,
destructive technology. Consumer
Energy's changes to its plant would
allow it to emit approximately 19
million pounds of sulfur dioxide,
nitrogen oxides, particulate matter

and other pollutants every year for
the fiftyyears it would remain stand-
ing. These brave students joined the
ranks of union ironworkers, electri-
cians, boilermakers, steamfitters and
bricklayers in raising the call to bring
renewable energy jobs to Michigan.
The rally that
I missed - but
shouldn't have.
Missing out on this event made
me think about the ways it mobilized
me personally as a concerned citizen
of Michigan, an environmentalist
and a potential job applicant for the
positions we'd create with green job
policy. All of a sudden, I realized that
a degree wasn't the only thing I want-
ed in the long term. I realized that I
wanted to make a difference now for
the sake of creating a greener future.
By deciding to believe in these
student movements, these students
make them something worth believ-
ing in. Sitting it out, I realized that
the results of these decisions impact
me as much as everyone in the state.
Being an involved activist requires
better planning, but believing that
such efforts are worthwhile is the
first step. Actions on a university,
local, and state level are the best
place to begin because we have
direct access to our policymakers.
Armed with the belief that change
is possible, I'm going to make more
time to be a part of it.
- Meg Young can be reached
at megyoung@umich.edu.

4

0

SEND LETTERS TO: TOTHEDAILY@UMICH.EDU

The Daily is looking for a diverse group of strong, informed writers
with an interest in campus issues to become editorial board members
in the spring and summer semesters.
E-MAIL RACHEL VAN GILDER AT RACHELVG@UMICH.EDU FOR MORE INFORMATION.

0

Gays face discrimination in
health care and workplace
TO THE DAILY:
While I was happy to see Patrick Zabawa
grapple with the concepts of respecting free-
dom of thought for all Americans in his recent
column, I am concerned that the need for non-
discrimination in employment and health care
were not fairly addressed (The hypocrisy of gay
activism, 04/16/2009). Non-discrimination in
employment and health care are fundamental to
protecting life and liberty for all Americans.
In 2004, Colonel Diane Schroer, a trans-
woman formerly of the United States Army, was
denied employment at the Library of Congress
because of her gender identity. In 2006, Char-
lene Strong was denied entrance to the emer-
gency room to be with her dying partner of 10
years until a biological family member arrived
and gave her permission.
When it comes down to receiving medical
services or getting a job, lesbian, gay, bisexual,
transgender and similarly identified people are
not simply oppressing people with different
beliefs. We are tryingto live.
In terms of medical care specifically, doctors
and other medical professionals cannot pick
and choose which medical services to provide to
which patients. Factors such as a patient's sexual
orientation are irrelevant to providing a medical
procedure. Moreover, patients can't be expected
to go shopping for a hospital with doctors who
share their beliefs in equal treatment. That luxu-
ry is not economically feasible for many.
In terms of employment, LGBT rights orga-
nizations are currently working on passing the
Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which
seeks to enact federal non-discrimination pro-
tections in employment on the basis of sexual
orientation and gender identity. This act is nec-
essary because many LGBT and similarly iden-
tified individuals are already employed - but
under the current federal law, they could be fired
tomorrow.
Sexual orientation and gender identity are
irrelevant factors when it comes to job per-
formance. All Americans have a right to work
according to their merits while also living open,
lives. To suggest that LGBT rights organizations
should only use persuasive means to this end is,
once again, a luxury beyond many LGBT Ameri-
cans.
When considering the struggles of LGBT citi-
zens, I hope that all of us can look beyond the
exclusive lens of marriage equality. Many LGBT
Americans do not have the luxury of making
marriage equality their top priority. In all parts
of the U.S., regardless of individuals' acceptance
of who we are, we need to be able to work and we

need tobe able to receive medical care today.
Sean Collins
Music sophomore
.Zabawa doesn't understand
purpose ofLGBT activism
TO THE DAILY:
Patrick Zabawa's column on LGBT activ-
ism represents a fatal misunderstanding of both
the purpose and context of LGBT activism (The
hypocrisy of gay activism, 04/16/2009). His basic
premise is that homophobic and transphobic
people have a right to discriminate against LGBT
people as much as LGBT people have a right to
live theirlives openly and freely. This is absolute-
ly incorrect on several counts.
Zabawa claims that it is hypocritical for LGBT
activists to push for legally binding protections
againstdiscriminationbecauseit amountstoforc-
inghomophobic and transphobic people to accept
an opposing viewpoint. The law is not a forum for
public discourse. It is an organized system of the
rules of conduct that dictate what actions are and
are not permissible. We can debate opinions in
newspapers, on the street, and at protests. Hav-
ing a court uphold fairness and equality does not
suppress opinions.
Most bizarrely, Zabawa asserts that activists
are going too far in pushing for comprehensive
anti-discrimination legislation in employment,
rather than "persuading" employers not to fire
their employees just for being lesbian, gay, bisex-
ual or transgender. Perhaps Zabawa has gotten a
little too comfortable in the University's environ-
ment, which supports LGBT people.
This environment was the result of the activ-
ism that Zabawa speaks against. The anti-dis-
crimination policy that establishes fairness here
at the University did not fully include protections
for sexual orientation until 1994 and for gender
identity or expression until 2007. And they did
not appear by magic - it took years of hard work
to get these policies in place. And LGBT activism
on campus continues today.
Tolerating intolerance is an issue of intel-
lectual freedom, and a very valid one. But when
the effects of intolerance and bigotry include
increased risk for mental health issues, higher
rates ofsuicide, higher rates of poverty, increased
physical violence, frequent sexual assault and
pervasive harassment in work or school we can-
not consider intolerance harmless. LGBT activ-
ism is about fighting for fairness, equality, and
justice. It's not about silencing opposition.
Anand Kalra
School ofInformationjunior

The leaders and best?

J 's true that I admire most of the
spirit, rhetoric and tradition of
this University. I never walk on
the Block M in the
Diag and I would
propose under the
West Engineering t
arch at midnight if
I could someday. I
fully believe pro-
viding education
of arts, sciences
and truth is essen- NEIL
tial and noble. But TAMBE
some traditions are
flawed. For exam-
ple, one phrase I
take issue with comes from the line
in our fight song that ends with, "...
the Leaders and Best." It's a great
line, but we as college students aren't
the "leaders and best" yet because
we haven't exercised leadership and
excellence in the real world, where
it matters most. Even if what we do
now already has an impact outside
of campus, it doesn't justify the title
of "leaders and best." What we do
now is the bare minimum citizenship
requires. The work we do here as stu-
dents is still valuable but it should not
be all that we aspire to accomplish.
I think the pomposity that comes
with slogans like "leaders and best"
is dangerous. We, especially those of
us graduating this year, are walking
into a lion's den of a world. We must
address domestic issues like Social

Security reform, class conflict and
accessibility to health care among
dozens of other meticulous, compli-
cated issues. As people of the world,
we must deal with bio-terrorism,
overpopulation, climate change,
water shortage and nuclear arms
proliferation, to name only a handful
of challenges. These problems don't
have easy fixes. I fear our University
of Michigan arrogance distracts us
from the treacherous road ahead and
how hard it's really going to be. We
have too many challenges ahead to
be delusional about our accomplish-
ments, abilities and entitlements.
Our generation already has a bad
rap. We're narcissistic. We insist on
having things our way and struggle
with taking criticism in stride. We
lack professionalism and the ability
to follow through when problem solv-
ing. We feel entitled to anything we
may want when we don't necessarily
deserve it.
But at the same time, our generation
has amazing qualities. We're tremen-
dously capable, curious and techno-
logically savvy. We're able to work in
diverse groups of people like no gen-
eration before us. We're ambitious and
we also volunteer a lot. We care about
the world around us and want to make
this planet a better place in any way
we can. Nobody can tell us we aren't
fired up, because we are.
We have a befuddling situation
before us. We have the opportunity to
EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:

be one of the greatestgenerations, and
I believe we can face our challenges
and live up to our aspirations of a bet-
ter society.We'll have to rally together
and overcome our differences while
still taking advantage of our diverse
perspectives and talents. We'll need
to have long, arduous, frustrating con-
versations with each other to figure
out the best courses of action. We'll
each have a role to play, one no more
important than any other.
We can overcome
our generation's
pretentiousness.
As University students, let's
focus on earning our maize and
blue colors. Before we start call-
ing ourselves the leaders and best,
let's have an unbreakable will to
overcome the challenges we face.
Let's be brave enough to believe in
what is right, courageous enough to
commit to what is right and unself-
ish enough to do what is right. If we
advance the public good, there is no
doubt that we will become the lead-
ers and best.
- Neil Tambe can be reached
at ntambegumich.edu.

4

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Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Emily Barton, Elise Baun, Harun Buljina, Ben Caleca, Satyajeet Deshmukh,
Brian Flaherty, Emmarie Huetteman, Emma Jeszke, Sutha K Kanagasingam, Shannon Kellman, Jeremy Levy,
Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee, Matthew Shutler, Neil Tambe, Radhika Upadhyaya, Rachel Van Gilder, Laura Veith

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