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October 30, 2009 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-10-30

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4 - Friday, October 30, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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Unsigned editorials reflect the oficial positio nfthe Daily's editorialboard. All other signed articles
and illustrations repsresent solely the views of their authors.
Mercury rising
Regulating mercury emissions will protect environment
Michigan's environment is under attack by a dangerous
chemical: mercury. But new state regulations could cur-
tail its effects. The Michigan Department of Environ-
mental Quality announced regulations on Oct. 19 that will require
significant cuts in the levels of mercury that coal-fired plants are
permitted to emit. These regulations are necessary to protect Mich-
igan's environment, as well as state residents' health, from the dan-
gerous effects of mercury. Michigan energy producers should jump
at the chance to improve their emissions' quality.

Lets' talk about sexonomics

Michigan is the 19th state to regulate mer-
cury emissions. Under the new regulations
- which were under consideration for three
years - coal-fired plants would be required
to slash their mercury emissions by 90 per-
cent of 1999 levels by 2015. Since these plants
generate 60 percent of Michigan's electric-
ity, the impact of a reduction in emissions
will be tangible. It is estimated that 3,600
less pounds of mercury will be released into
the air each year.
Mercury pollution has a real effect on
public health and the ecosystem. It perme-
ates into the lakes and is extremely toxic to
the human nervous system. Mercury from
the atmosphere falls into waterways where
it takes the form of methylmercury. The
chemical infects small fish and plankton
and can make its way up the food chain. In
addition to disrupting the environment, this
becomes dangerous to the public in the form
of commonly eaten fish, which may contain
unsafe levels of mercury. Regulating mer-
cury emissions will make for cleaner water
and a healthier environment.
And a healthy environment is undeni-
ably vital to the state's well-being. Tour-
ism is Michigan's third-largest industry,
and environmental regulations will help
preserve and increase the attractiveness of
the state's natural resources to visitors. The
Great Lakes, for instance, will be in better
condition once mercury emissions are seri-

ously curbed. Fishing, among other things,
depends upon a healthy ecosystem.
Reducing emissions levels so drastically
is certainly an ambitious goal. But it often
takes ambitious goals for any progress to be
made. Even if every plant doesn't reach the
set goals, the result would still be a drastic
reduction in mercury levels. Besides, tech-
nologies do exist for reducing the amount of
mercury exiting power plants, like advanced
scrubbers and carbon injectors. And lower
mercury levels will be worth the potential
rise in energy prices.
State mercury regulations can help better
public health and improve the condition of
Michigan's environment. But federal coal
plant mercury regulations would be even
more valuable. Luckily, the Environmental
Protection Agency plans to introduce such
new regulations by November 2011. This
implementation will not only bring down
mercury emissions across the country, but
also even the playing field for coal plants
so that business is not disproportionately
affected on a state-by-state basis.
Lower mercury emissions are condu-
cive to healthier people and a better envi-
ronment. The Michigan DEQ is correct to
demand so much of the power producers -
it conveys the message that the environment
is serious business. Coal-fired power plants
should embrace these regulations to help
make Michigan healthier.

hen the Modern Library
polled more than 200,000
readers in 1998 to compile
its 100 Best Novels
list, voters in they
poll selected writ- p
er Ayn Rand, an
objectivist novelist,
as the clear winner.
Books by Rand took
the top two spots
and a total of four
places in the top 10. BRIAN
Rand's popularity FLAHERTY
otn college campus-
es atndelsewhere
has stemmed large.
ly from the appeal and controversy
of her views on topics like rational-
ity and capitalism, but she also had a
very interesting perspective on rela-
tionships, which could be described
as laissez-faire meets sexuality.
Herview that relationships should be
an exchange of value, in many ways
parallel to an economic transaction,
is both useful for thinking about
modern relationships and increas-
ingly reflective of a reality in which
it's okay (and, in many cases, ideal) to
shop around.
When many of our parents were
young, "going steady" and dating
were the customary practices sur-
rounding relationships. Our great-
grandparents might have been more
familiar with "calling." On college
campuses today, traditional dating
has been largely supplanted with the
ultimately more liberalizing hook-
up culture. Keeping things casual
has increasingly become the norm
in colleges, and it has become both
common and socially acceptable for
young people to engage in "hookups"
- a conveniently ambiguous term
that refers to anything from kissing
to bumping uglies outside the context
of a committed and monogamous
In her book "Hooking Up: Sex, Dat-
ing, and Relationships on Campus,"
researcher Kathleen Bogle indicates
that as much as 78 percent of college
students at large public universities
engage in hookups. And friends-
with-benefits relationships - which

involve intimacy and passion with
low commitment - are now common
as well. A recent study by Bisson and
Levine called "Negotiating a Friends
with Benefits Relationship" suggest-
ed that 60 percent of college students
have engaged in such relationships.
A lot of young adults today are defer-
ring committed relationships to later
in life, a fact that's evidenced in the
ages at which people are marrying:
on average at roughly 27 for men and
25 for women. All in all, it seems most
college studentsand recent graduates
are opting in favor of keeping their
optiotas open.
In market economies, -,consum-
ers benefit from the freedom to shop
around, compare products and select
the ones that provide the value they're
looking for at the lowest cost. Mod-
ern behavior toward relationships is
in many ways similar - students can
interact with a wide variety of people
in a variety of ways while having the
freedom to attempt relationships
with those who provide the greatest
value for the cost.
But pairing up looks a lot different
in an ideal economic market. For one
thing, there's the big complication
that every person is unique. It's rela-
tively easy to assess a watchamacal-
lit in a store, but hard to really know
the traits of another person. Markets
have ways of dealing with problems
like this, but a lot of them don't work
for relationships. If I buy a hoodie
and decide I don't like it, I can simply
return it - this reduces my concern
that I don't know about the quality
and value of the product I'm buying.
Romantic partners are a lot harder
to simply return, which is one reason
why it's often advantageous for peo-
ple to get more information - to get
to know each other in casual settings
and compare one another to other
people they've previously known -
before they buy the goods.
Aside from Match.com and its ilk,
the "market" for human partners is
also pretty fragmented, making it
hard for many people to locate what
they're looking for. If someone is
looking for a partner with a rare per-
sonality type and particular traits, it

can be pretty difficult to find one. So
sometimes, the most rational strat-
egy is a shopping approach - to meet,
flirt, try out and do various other
things with alot of people to increase
your chances of encountering one
you're willing to hold onto. One ben-
efit of modern sexual culture is that
it allows people to practice this to a
greater extent.
With love, it's best
to shop around on
the market.
Probably the biggest problem in
forming relationships is that many
people simply don't know what they
want. Rational people have prefer-
ences about what they want from
most products when they buy them.
But while intelligent adults consider
factors like whether or not their car
is kid-friendly before they purchase
it, they often fail to give an hon-
est assessment of whether a person
they have feelings for can really pro-
vide the sort of intimacy, interaction
and experiences they want. Just as
consumers can make a bad decision
when they lack a good understand-
ing of what they want, people tend to
make bad decisions when they enter
relationships without knowing their
preferences in relationships, intima-
cy and partners.
In relationships, as in economics,
people suffer negative consequences
when they don't inject rationality
into their decision-making. It's my
view, and I think Ayn Rand's, that an
ideal relationship occurs not as the
result of mere chance or uncontrol-
lable' feeliigs, but when two people
recognize the value in being with one
another and make an informed deci-
sion to do so~,
- Brian Flaherty is an associate
editorial page editor. He can be
reached at bfla@umich.edu.

Halloween unmasked

Once again, the time of the year has come for
everyone to pick out their costumes, bring out
the treats and have a good ol' time in Ann Arbor.
And yet, as females walk down South University
wearing "sexy" costumes and people think it's
entertaining to dress up as Native Americans, it
is vital to address the ignorance of Halloween.
What is easily forgotten in the cloud of excite-
ment and inebriation is the trouble Halloween
generates. Centered on disguises, Oct. 31 is seen
by many as an excuse to cause mischief in the
name of good-natured fun. But Halloween often
gives students permission to assume a personal-
ity that offends other communities and identities.
There are serious implications involved when a
person is having a "good time" with an unaccept-
able costume. Few understand the ramifications
of a holiday that often uses this alternate reality
to descend into racism and hypersexualizaiton.
The irresponsible racist actions that Hallow-
een sometimes prompts are not just seen at this
University, but on other campuses as well. The
University of Texas Law School faced this issue
in 2006, when students hosted a "Ghetto Fabu-
lous" costume party. This party displayed ste-
reotypical black and Latino names, apparel and
objects. When pictures surfaced on the Internet,
there was outrage amongst the black and Latino
communities. But the problem was not properly
resolved, and students who had participated in
the event were given a simple warning. Dean of
the UniversityofTexas School ofLawLarrySager
recalled thatitwas "understandable thatstudents
could innocently misbehave in this way," accord-
ing to a Nov. 2, 2006 Associated Press article. To
the targeted black and Latino community, this
response was wrong and inconsiderate. To state
that it was understandable for adult law students
to have "innocently" misbehaved is unacceptable.
The law students weren't little kids - they knew
what they were doing.
In spite of the fact that there are some respons-
es on college campuses that consent to offensive

actions shown on Halloween, there are signs of
improvement. At the University of Richmond,
after a student saw an unknown person in black-
face who portrayed himself as an African Ameri-
can, University President Edward Ayers stated
that the racial incident had "no place on this cam-
pus." Though there was no direct punishment to
the offender because of his anonymity, there was
an acknowledgment by Ayers that strengthening
stereotypes of a certain group is unethical.
But racism isn't Halloween's only negative
result. Overtly sexual Halloween costumes are
the trend for many womenbecause the media por-
trays that as desirable. Scantily clad women per-
petuate gender stereotypes that depict women as
objects subject to the male gaze. Though women
should have the right to feel sexually liberated,
which might be the intention of wearing a "sexy"
costume, they should be prepared for males to
react accordingly.
It's important for the University of Michigan to
forewarn students that, among other reprehensible
actions, Halloween makes it easier to commit acts
of vandalism and to reinforce damaging stereo-
types without fear of repercussions due to their
shrouded identity. As college students, we should
be competent enough to be fully aware of our
actions and their consequences. It is our duty to
build a safe campus community during Halloween,
and that requires adeeper analysis of the holiday.
Tonight, FightingObstaclesKnowingUltimate
Success (FOKUS) is presenting ART-I-FAKTS:
HALLO (WHAT?!), a student art showcase and
reception that will illustrate, examine and ques-
tion all the aspects of Halloween - not just the
negative ones. The event is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
in the Kelsey Museum and is free to the public.
Come prepared to decorate pumpkins, engage in
dialogue and vibe to the sounds ofDJ Professor
Purple and DJ Seek Selekta while perusing our
art display.
Felix Lopez is a member of FOKUS.
t ,

Nina Amilineni, Emad Ansari, Emily Barton, Ben Caleca, Michelle DeWitt,
Brian Flaherty, Emma Jeszke, Raghu Kainkaryam, Sutha K Kanagasingam, Erika Mayer, Edward McPhee,
Harsha Panduranga, Alex Schiff, Asa Smith, Brittany Smith, Radhika Upadhyaya,
Rachel Van Gilder, Laura Veith


Midterm meltdown

t's an unfortunate fact of life that
most of us will have to take final
exams or write final papers at the
end of this semes-
ter, and another fact;
that finals are, with
very few excep-
tions, mind-numb- 7
ing and emotionallyI
devastating. Luck-
ily for us, though, f
there is a time des- L
ignated solely for
final exams dur- JAMIE
ing which we have BLOCK
nothing to do but
study, procrasti-
nate, obsess and
stay up all night reading a tomato
sauce-stained textbook, without the
pesky interferences of class and other
But for midterms and midterm
papers, we aren't so fortunate. My
midterm schedule has been stretched
across several weeks, and I know that
this isn't a unique situation. Everyone
I know seems to have midterms and
large papers popping up all over the
place, even now. Midterms may, in
theory, often be slightly easier than
finals, or at least cover a more narrow
scope of material. But students still
deserve more of a study period than
Fall Break, which comes after mid-
terms for many students, anyway.
To balance the difference, I
propose that the University treat
midterm season the same way it
treats finals season. The University
wouldn't have to set aside more than
a week to accomplish this task, since
some classes with finals don't have
midterms, meaning there would be
fewer potential scheduling conflicts.
If, instead of Fall Break, we had that
entire week devoted solely to mid-
terms and devoid of classes, it would
be a far better system than the one
currently in place.
One obvious objection is that it
means several class sessions that

professors currently count on would
be off the schedule. But this could be
easily remedied. The University gives
us one of the longest summers on
record eachyear, and isn't technically
even obligated to offer any minimum
number of sessions of each class. To
prolong the school year by only three
days hardly seems like a great sacri-
fice by the student body in exchange
for a more suitable midterm system.
And I would argue that even if extend-
ing the year is ultimately impractical,
losing those teaching days in favor of
a better evaluation system is a worthy
The relaxation students would
miss on those three once-summer,
now-school days is far less than the
relaxation gained from not having
to juggle midterms with everything
else going on at the time. Without
the distractions of homework, classes
and student group meetings, mid-
term season would no longer make
students angry at every little time
commitment that stands in the way
of their studying. Obviously, exams
are always somewhat stressful, but
this can never and should never be
completely alleviated - attending the
University of Michigan should come
with some stress. But any exam stress
should come from studying the mate-
rial, not from the obstacles prevent-
ing you from doing so.
There are also those who fear
classes would lose momentum, but
in my experience, midterms already
cause this. Classes slow down for
review anyway, so it may as well be
at a uniform time. Also, holding the
exams during a set time equalizes
the playing field for all students,
while the current system allows
some students plenty of time to study
for an exam that other students may
have no time for. We consider fair-
ness on final exams to be important
enough to merit setting aside time
for them, and midterms should be
no different.

While the goal isn't to enable all
students to pass every exam with fly-
ing colors, there is a large possibility
that many students would do better
with the altered system - and this,
because it would happen for the right
reasons, would be a great thing. I am
not a proponent of arbitrary grade
inflation or overly generous profes-
sors - grades should be deserved
- but if an otherwise beneficial pol-
icy also happens to lead to students
doing better on exams, surely this is
something worth embracing. With
a less stressful and more equal set-
ting, students would be better able
to show accurately how much they
have learned a the material at hand
- not just how much they were able
to cram in between fulfilling their
many other obligations. The Uni-
versity should be in full support of a
system that leads to students getting
grades that are more reflective of
actual comprehension.
Like finals, these
exams should get
their own week.
It seems difficult, then, for the
University to argue against a uni-
form exam policy. It creates an equal
playing field for students and lowers
unnecessary stress. The only major
complaints I hear from other stu-
dents about the existing finals policy
stem from some classes not actually
following those policies. To apply
that system to midterms and midterm
papers feels like a logical and overdue
next step.
-Jamie Bock is a senior
arts editor. He can be reached
at jarblock@umich.edu.


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